Shopping at the local supermarket is a task everyone does, and many shop carefully, looking for the best deals and focusing on providing their families with nutritious, healthy meals. And most everyone is aware of the supermarket’s more obvious “tricks” — like the candy and other items kept at the check-out lines, just begging consumers to make an impulse buy, or the fact that supermarkets stock products that are more expensive at eye-level, forcing thrifty consumers to look lower for the cheaper options.
But there are some nasty secrets about the way most supermarkets operate that you may not know about, and may have you doing a more careful job of inspecting the products you place in your cart.
1. Speaking of supermarket carts – they are filthy. After all, have you ever seen a supermarket employee out there hosing off the carts? That’s because they don’t. In fact, 72 percent of all carts tested came up positive for fecal matter. There is actually more bacteria on shopping carts than in public restrooms — mainly because restrooms get cleaned regularly, while the supermarket carts don’t. Using the wipes provided by many supermarkets can be helpful, but it is also important to encourage your children not to touch the carts unnecessarily, and wash hands after shopping.
2. Supermarkets’ practice of spraying the produce with water does not actually keep the produce fresh… in fact, it does the opposite. Wet produce rots faster. What supermarkets do accomplish by spraying the produce is making the produce look good, and increasing the price, since wet produce weighs more than dry.
3. And on the same topic of that fresh produce — despite that little squirt of water the supermarket gives its fruits and vegetables, the produce is filthy. After all, what do you do when selecting, say, a fresh peach? You pick it up, handle it, and place it back if it isn’t what you want. And so does everyone else shopping at that supermarket… while pushing carts that have a 72 percent chance of being contaminated with fecal matter. Wash your produce thoroughly, because your supermarket is not.
4. Ever heard of the term “food reconditioning“? It’s a common practice that occurs when a supermarket returns a product to the supplier for being imperfect or expired. Sometimes the reconditioning is pretty harmless, like the practice of grinding up imperfect pasta to make semolina. But sometimes it’s pretty bad — like when a batch of blueberry ice cream was sent back, then turned into chocolate ice cream and resold. Most of the time, adding chocolate to something makes it better, but in this instance, it’s pretty gross.
5. Meat in your supermarket is sometimes mislabeled, especially fish. Luckily, in the U.S., hidden horse meat in beef is not a problem because there are no domestic suppliers that butcher horses. And it is easy to tell the difference between products like beef and pork. But because of that, the USDA is actually pretty lazy about testing supermarket meat to make sure it matches what is on the label. And that makes it easy to label a cheap fish fillet as something more expensive, like tuna, as long as it looks similar. In fact, studies show that as much as a third of all fish currently being sold in supermarkets is mislabeled. Fortunately, most of the “counterfeit” fish is safe for consumption, although some products, like snake mackerel, can cause illness.
So remember, wash your hands — and your produce — thoroughly after shopping at your supermarket… and inspect that fillet of salmon a little harder.
[Image via Flicka]