Very few people would consciously and confidently set out foods directly on the floor of a grocery store and begin eating them. Surely we know better than that. Even if a store employee mopped that aisle a moment ago, we might wonder if he or she had just mopped under the butcher’s counter or even under the commodes in the restrooms.
We would probably shudder at the thought. But this is sort of what we unwittingly do at home, although a few steps along, if we are not careful.
Here’s a basic rule of thumb for handling groceries safely at home: Let’s just assume every item has touched the floor of the store. It’s always possible.
Even in the cleanest of all grocery stores, where the strictest food safety and hygiene procedures may be practiced, this can still be a concern.
Any random food item may have come into contact with the ground outside, as well as the floor of a food warehouse, shipping truck, or other storage or transport spot as well. Assuming any of these possibilities took place, let’s just imagine how many shoes (and perhaps tires) might have slipped across that random spot before the the grocery item rested there.
Let’s take this basic assumption a few steps further.
Where did those shoes also walk? Just think about the spots the average person might walk in a single day. How about the rest of the grocery store, the parking lot, the dog park, the restroom, other stores, a workplace (perhaps a factory, a farm, a hospital, or a scientific laboratory) and his or her own garage?
Where did those shopping cart, merchandise stocking wagon, forklift, shipping truck, or customer car tires also roll? Who knows how many oil, industrial, medical, or environmental puddles might have left their marks on those tires before they rolled through the grocery store, parking lot, or food warehouse?
Now, who’s hungry? Do we still want to eat those apples without washing them? (This one is a potential pesticide issue as well.) Will we still feel fine about setting that cracker box in the cupboard, tossing that shrink-wrapped case of bottled water on the kitchen counter, or placing that six-pack directly on the table?
Most shoppers know about the likelihood of encountering germs on the handles of shopping carts and the importance of handling raw meats separately from other groceries. But who thinks about finding foulness on fresh foods?
It’s enough to make anyone turn to germophobia.