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9 Worst Grocery Store Chains to Shop at During the Pandemic

Shopping in a clean supermarket has never been more critical.
Coronavirus pandemic effects: long queue to enter the supermarket for grocery shopping

Grocery shopping has dramatically evolved from an enjoyable experience of procurement to one that is fraught with peril at every turn. The coronavirus pandemic has not only made a visit to a grocery store a very stressful experience, but the close interaction it requires significantly increases the odds of one contracting the COVID-19 contagion.

National grocery store chains are reacting in real-time to the burden that they are shouldering, inserting new guidelines designed to keep both shoppers and staff safe the coronavirus outbreak. Most chains have also instituted a seniors-only shopping hour at the beginning of the day, when each store is at its cleanest and emptiest, which decreases the risk for elderly shoppers who are most vulnerable to the potentially deadly virus.

In fact, keeping a supermarket clean is paramount in keeping shoppers safe. So what makes the following chains the worst places to shop during the pandemic? They have been rated as the least clean by  Consumer Reports rankings. The following chains earned either a poor or fair rating for cleanliness by the esteemed buying guide, but we also selected ones with the lowest reader rankings as well.

It is fair to point out that all of the following chains have instituted prescriptive cleanliness standards for shoppers and staff since the report. But it's safe to assume that, if you were adjudged to be unclean in the past, your standards for cleanliness may not be optimal moving forward. Also, many of these chains have the same parent company, and as a result, the same policies, but are managed independently, either by region and/or intended target market. Here is the countdown of the worst grocery stores.

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9

Jewel Osco

jewel osco outside
Shutterstock

The Albertson's-owned chain got a fair rating on cleanliness but only barely passing 72 on CR's reader ratings. They are taking steps to protect their customers, which can be found in a message from CEO Vivek Sankaran:

Running Clean Stores and Pharmacies. We have stepped up how often we clean and disinfect all departments, restrooms, and other high-touch points of the store, like checkstands and service counters. Cart wipes and hand sanitizer stations have been installed in key locations within the stores for your convenience, too. As always, we encourage customers to wash their fresh and packaged produce before consuming at home.

8

Stop & Shop

Stop and shop grocery store exterior
photobyphm/Shutterstock

Stop & Shop also got a fair rating on cleanliness but only barely passing 72 on CR's reader ratings. But the Boston-based chain is instituting new standards which include the adding of a "third-party cleaning service to our already extensive cleaning procedures to hit key areas more frequently."

RELATED: Your ultimate supermarket survival guide is here.

7

Safeway

Safeway store front
Shutterstock

Like Jewell-Osco, Safeway is also owned by Albertson's, and got a fair rating on cleanliness but only barely passing 72 on CR's reader ratings. And they are taking the same steps to protect their customers:

Running Clean Stores and Pharmacies. We have stepped up how often we clean and disinfect all departments, restrooms, and other high-touch points of the store, like checkstands and service counters. Cart wipes and hand sanitizer stations have been installed in key locations within the stores for your convenience, too. As always, we encourage customers to wash their fresh and packaged produce before consuming at home.

6

Acme

acme grocery
ACME Markets/Facebook

Another Albertson's-owned chain, which got the same fair rating on cleanliness but an even worse passing grade of 70 on CR's reader ratings. And they are taking the same steps to protect their customers:

Running Clean Stores and Pharmacies. We have stepped up how often we clean and disinfect all departments, restrooms, and other high-touch points of the store, like checkstands and service counters. Cart wipes and hand sanitizer stations have been installed in key locations within the stores for your convenience, too. As always, we encourage customers to wash their fresh and packaged produce before consuming at home.

5

Shaw's

Shaw's supermarket vermont
Shaw's Supermarket/Facebook

The last of the Albertson's-owned chain on this list, which got a fair rating on cleanliness and barely passable grade of 70 on CR's reader ratings. And they are taking the same steps to protect their customers:

Running Clean Stores and Pharmacies. We have stepped up how often we clean and disinfect all departments, restrooms, and other high-touch points of the store, like checkstands and service counters. Cart wipes and hand sanitizer stations have been installed in key locations within the stores for your convenience, too. As always, we encourage customers to wash their fresh and packaged produce before consuming at home.

RELATED: Click here for all of our latest coronavirus coverage.

4

Marc's

marcs grocery
Marc's/Facebook

While the Ohio-based chain gets a reader rating of 77, which is better than others, it is the first in the list to get a poor cleanliness rating from Consumer Reports. They are addressing cleanliness issues during the coronavirus pandemic, which they have listed on their website:

Marc's takes the health and safety of our employees and customers seriously; we've increased our protocols in sanitizing surfaces, including shopping cart handles, merchandise shelves, front-end belts and registers.

·   All stores have increased store surface cleaning and sanitizing practices.

·   All hard contact surfaces are wiped and sanitized throughout the day.

·   Restroom cleaning schedules have been increased.

·   Employees are encouraged to wash their hands frequently throughout the day.

·   All employees have been asked to stay home if they feel ill or have any type of cold or flu-like symptoms, especially a fever.

·   All employees have been asked to monitor their body temperature daily, following the request and guidelines from the Governor of Ohio, before coming to work.

3

Walmart Supercenter

walmart storefront
Shutterstock

Walmart is the world's largest retailer of, well, nearly everything. And in the Consumer Reports rankings, their cleanliness rating is poor, which combined with the reader ranking of 70, adds up to not a great shopping experience. Walmart has suffered tragedy, with some associates succumbing to COVID-19, and they are the first chain to face a wrongful death lawsuit as result. But they have also been on the front foot in terms of their coronavirus-related guidelines to protect shoppers and guidelines alike.

RELATED: 17 Groceries to Buy Right Now at Walmart During the Coronavirus Pandemic

2

Tops

tops grocery
Tops Friendly Markets/Facebook

The North Atlantic–based chain also got a very low 70 in Consumer Reports reader ratings and a "poor" grade for cleanliness. They have posted the following to alert shoppers of how they are handling coronavirus sanitation:

As you visit our Tops stores, you'll see hand-sanitizing stations at the entrances, throughout the store, and at checkouts. Also, dedicated associates are regularly cleaning shopping carts, handles, hand baskets, kiosks, foodservice counters, and other frequently touched surfaces throughout the store. In addition, we're continuously sanitizing the checkout areas including conveyor belts, pin pads, as well as all surfaces at our self-scan registers.

We've temporarily closed our fresh service areas, bulk bins, and discontinued the sale of unpackaged or loose products in our bakeries. Most of these items, however, are now available pre-packaged.

1

KeyFood

key food
Key Food/Facebook

KeyFood is unique in that it is a cooperative of independently owned grocery stores that is headquartered in Staten Island. They also logged in with the lowest score of 69 in Consumer Reports reader ratings and "poor" in terms of cleanliness. KeyFood's announcement on how they are addressing coronavirus? Sadly, it doesn't include anything on increased standards of cleanliness:

Finally, we want to remind our customers to take care and be cognizant of their safety, and the safety of other shoppers and our store employees. We ask that shoppers comply with the social distancing guidelines that we have all become familiar with. We are also continuing to follow all state-mandated cleaning protocols to ensure a clean and safe environment for our customers.

Related: 7 Tips for Safe Grocery Shopping Amid Coronavirus Concerns

Eat This, Not That! is constantly monitoring the latest food news as it relates to COVID-19 in order to keep you healthy, safe, and informed (and answer your most urgent questions). Here are the precautions you should be taking at the grocery store, the foods you should have on hand, the meal delivery services and restaurant chains offering takeout you need to know about, and ways you can help support those in need. We will continue to update these as new information develops. Click here for all of our COVID-19 coverage, and sign up for our newsletter to stay up-to-date.
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