A Shopper’s Eye View of Food Safety at Retail Stores: Lessons from Photographs Taken while Grocery Shopping

John B. Luchansky, Anna C.S. Porto-Fett, Benjamin Chapman

Biblographic citation: Food Protection Trends, vol. 37, no. 1, pp. 30-42, Jan 2017

Volume 37, Issue 1: Pages 30–42

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Food safety-related infrastructure, procedures, and practices at grocery stores play an important role in protecting public health. Thus, as part of a companion study to establish the “true” prevalence of Listeria monocytogenes among ready-to-eat (RTE) foods purchased at retail stores, digital photographs were recorded by data collectors trained to identify potential perceived and actual food safety risk situations. Digital photographs taken between 2010 and 2012 at stores across FoodNet sites in California, Maryland, Connecticut, and Georgia were coded by use of qualitative content analysis techniques. Risk factors for foodborne illnesses, including contaminated equipment resulting in crosscontamination, poor personal hygiene, and improper temperature control, were observed. As examples, photographs captured utensils, such as tongs, placed handle-down in containers of uncovered RTE foods, bare-handed contact of deli meat during slicing, and water dripping from the ceiling onto the deli counter. Also seen were practices where good risk management practices were implemented. These digital photographs provide a set of learning materials that the retail food industry can use as examples of what shoppers may see if they are focused on food safety. Such photographs can also be used as a motivation and as a real-world teaching tool to better inform and engage a positive food safety culture among shoppers and employees at grocery stores.

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