What are the dirtiest areas in your supermarket?

women cleaning a supermarket trolley handle

The average suburban supermarket is one of the busiest places in any shopping strip or mall, and that, unfortunately, also makes it one of the dirtiest.

Sure, it looks clean – or it should – but the sheer volume of customers, staff and stock passing through means there are hidden germs and dirt lurking everywhere.

So what are the dirtiest parts of a supermarket, and how can you protect your health next time you’re off to do the shopping?

In no particular order, they are …

Trolleys

Most germs are transmitted by our hands, so of course the trolley handle is your first point of call for ‘germiness’. One of the good things to come out of the pandemic is that most supermarkets now provide free wipes for your trolley and you should use them.

Another peak germ and dirt hotspot is the child seat.

Kids are cute, but they are also leaky. Loose nappies, runny noses and hands that go straight from their mouths to anywhere mean kids’ seats are positively radioactive with germs.

Like many people, I am guilty of putting delicate fruit and baked goods in this area without a thought.

Once again, time to crack out the wipes and give it a thorough cleaning.

Self-checkout touch screens

Self-checkouts are ubiquitous these days and that means they are a focus point for germs. And as they are generally the last point of call for any supermarket visit, any germs accumulated on your trip will be deposited here.

There is simply no way supermarket staff can clean them as quickly as they become dirty.

Try to use hands-free screen options as much as possible and a pen if you can to avoid the nasties.

Conveyor belt

Another focus point for germs and dirt, and with every product using the same space, the potential for cross contamination on conveyor belts is extreme.  

According to a report by Food Safety News, the very structure of the belt is also a problem.

It is made of PVC, a material that is durable but porous. It’s “like a petri dish for bacteria”, according to Food Safety News.

Testing has shown 100 per cent of belts test positive to something whether it be mould, bacteria or yeast and no amount of scrubbing or cleaning would ever remove the contamination.

Your best bet here is to never put fresh vegies directly on to the belt and clean anything as much as you can when you get home.

Fresh fruit and vegies

Supermarkets go to a great deal of effort to make their fresh produce section shiny and clean, but the unavoidable truth is that produce grows in dirt.

Sometimes it’s not just the growing medium. Most fruit and vegetables must be manually handled at some point in their production and it’s not always possible to maintain hospital-level sanitation in the middle of a paddock.

Composite farming can also create problems. Put livestock near horticulture and, well, animal waste doesn’t always sit neatly where it started.

Some of the worst food poisoning outbreaks in the US have been attributed to cows living close to lettuce fields.

A good rule of thumb is to wash everything. But you do that anyway, right?

Meat, seafood and deli counters

We’ve all experienced it, no matter how tightly wrapped, meat juices drip out of the tray.

All it takes is one leaking package to contaminate everything around it, and you have a problem.

Try to separately bag them when going through a checkout and if there is an obvious leak, ‘decant’ the item into a non-reactive container – glass or ceramic – when you get home.

Reusable bags

You’ve done the right thing by the environment, you’re using reusable bags, but there’s the issue.

If you have germs in a bag, and then use it again, then obviously you are risking contamination.

Try to wash as often as you can and keep them in a clean location. Shoving them in the back of the car is handy, but it’s also where you often toss sports equipment, the dog and any other random items that have no regard for food safety.

This week’s best deals

Coles

Sensible: Oral B Pro Electric Toothbrush range, half price $40. Be sensible with this fantastic price. Seems a lot, but think about the bills you will save in the long run. Dentists everywhere will thank you.

Indulgence: Chocolatier Australia Puddles the Platypus. $11.60, save $3.90. I scanned the Coles catalogue very hard to find the most ‘out there’ tenuous-link-to-Easter-product, and I think this is it. The clincher is that Chocolatier will donate 25 per cent of the profit of every Puddles sold to the Australian Platypus Conservancy.

See the catalogue here

IGA

Sensible: White grapes, $4.99/kg. Grapes are at their best at the moment so tuck into their juicy delicious goodness.

Indulgence: Primo Stackers, selected varieties, $3.30, save $1.40. Probably about the most expensive way you can eat salami, but so convenient it should be criminal.

See the catalogue here

ALDI

Sensible: Hot Cross Bun varieties, $3.49. I was expecting more Aldi for Easter weirdness – a bunny-shaped floor cleaner or something of that ilk – but instead it has come out with a delicious range of hot cross buns that have won Canstar awards. Aldi always keeps us guessing.

Indulgence: Urban Eats Gozleme, $3.99, save 60c. It’s hard to see how prepared gozleme would compete with the fresh stuff, but it’s so delicious I’m prepared to give this a crack.

See the catalogue here

Woolworths

Sensible: Raspberries, $4 a punnet. I’m so old I remember when raspberries first started appearing in supermarkets and they were about $8 a punnet so I still marvel you can get them at these sorts of prices. Delicious fresh, or try this healthy crumble.

Indulgence: Tasmanian Heritage Brie or Camembert, half price $7.45. This is an amazing price, buy some now and think about your arteries later.

See the catalogue here

Do you use the supermarket wipes provided? In your opinion do supermarkets do enough to keep their spaces clean? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below.

Also read: How to save yourself from bad rice

Written by Jan Fisher

Accomplished journalist, feature writer and sub-editor with impressive knowledge of the retirement landscape, including retirement income, issues that affect Australians planning and living in retirement, and answering YLC members' Age Pension and Centrelink questions. She has also developed a passion for travel and lifestyle writing and is fast becoming a supermarket savings 'guru'.

One Comment

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  1. unfortunately, there are many more places, where germs can be, it’s to do with people,
    people pick many things up,and put them back, whilst looking for the, better/ correct item, they want, from produce, meats, to dry goods on shelves, as well as physical money 😉

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