Grocery Store Health Risks

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(Photo by: Victor J. Blue/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

(Photo by: Victor J. Blue/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

CBS Charlotte (con't)

Affordable Care Act Updates: CBSCharlotte.com/ACA

Health News & Information: CBSCharlotte.com/Health

(CBS Charlotte) — Have you ever fell ill within a few days of going grocery shopping? If so, you’re not alone. In truth, there are a plethora of reasons why you might become ill after visiting the grocery store.

While people often assume that their local grocery store is clean (because after all, you should be able to purchase the food that you eat from a clean environment,) quite the opposite is true.

The very first thing most people touch at the grocery store is loaded with bacteria. In 2011, the University of Arizona conducted a study on shopping carts. Of the carts swabbed for the study, 72 percent tested positive for fecal bacteria … yes fecal bacteria! To put that number in perspective, there’s more fecal bacteria on shopping carts than in the average public bathroom. To reduce the likelihood of coming down with an illness after grocery shopping, it is best to use the antibacterial wipes that most grocery stores provide to wipe down the cart. If you have an infant or toddler, a cart cover can help protect them from falling ill.

Another grocery store health danger comes from handling meat. Statistically, packaged meat at the grocery store is loaded with bacteria, inside and out. While the meat is deemed “safe” to eat, as cooking the meat kills the bacteria, people should always wash their hands or use antibacterial gel whenever handling packaged meat.

But wait, there’s more … We are all familiar with the ‘Use by” or “Best by” expiration labels on our food, but have you ever wondered how your grocery store comes up with these numbers? Would you cringe if we informed you that the employees at the grocery store guess the expiration date? It’s true … there is no real method to determine when a product will spoil at the grocery store. Also, if a food product has reached its expiration date and still remains on store shelves, it is not uncommon for the grocery store to simply change the expiration date. I can personally recall numerous times that I’ve purchased chicken from the grocery store, and it went bad before the expiration date. Evaluate your meats carefully before eating. Enough said.

Moreover, no one really knows what’s in the food that they purchase at the grocery store. The Federal Drug Administration allows for food to be “reconditioned.” Yummy! What exactly are we eating? Apparently your guess is as good as mine.

Lastly, compared to a restaurant, how often have you heard that a grocery store was closed due to health related code violations? Chances are, probably not very often. This has to be because supermarkets are spotless and germ free, right? Well, not quite. Grocery stores are inspected by health officials, however, unlike restaurants, they do not have to tell their customers that their store failed inspection. Additionally, there’s no telling when, if at all, the health inspector will resurface for another inspection. In other words … proceed with caution.

- Nichole Jaworski, CBS Charlotte

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