The dangerous germs lurking at the supermarket

1st of May 2014
The dangerous germs lurking at the supermarket

Raw chicken, meat packaging, trolleys and 'bags for life' at the supermarket are a breeding ground for germs such as E.coli and Campylobacter, according to a leading health and safety consultant.

Speaking at a recent hand washing conference, Dr Lisa Ackerley came up with a number of suggestions to alleviate the risks of supermarket shopping.

"Studies have shown that 76 per cent of chickens in the EU have Campylobacter while salmonella has been found on 15.7 per cent of EU poultry carcasses," said Ackerley. "Meanwhile, E.coli on leeks and potatoes has been linked to an outbreak of the infection in the UK affecting 250 people. And Listeria is common in salads, pates and soft cheese."

She said food packaging represented an additional risk factor. "In one study, 6.5 per cent of the packaging used for whole chickens was found to be contaminated with Campylobacter," said Ackerley. "And E.coli has been found in 12 per cent of long-lasting shopping bags labelled ‘bags for life'."

She added that E.Coli had been discovered on 21 per cent of shopping trolleys in one test. "We don't know for certain where this is coming from: the trolleys could have been contaminated by birds or by people with unwashed hands for example," she said. "However, we think the contamination resulted from people handling raw foods and then touching the shopping trolley afterwards."

According to Ackerley, supermarket contamination could be tackled in several ways. "For example, silver particles could be used in the manufacture of shopping bags and packaging to help reduce the bacterial load," she said. "Perhaps the stores could supply antibacterial wipes for use on the hands, or disposable covers could be supplied for trolley handles. And awareness could be raised by a simple notice on the trolley that says: "Now wash your hands'."

The conference, which took the theme: "The science and behaviour behind hand washing at home, work and on the move", was held in London and hosted by the Royal Society for Public Health.

 

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