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Never Do This at Grocery Store, Say Health Experts

Five unhealthy things you should never do when shopping for food.  

Let's be real–working with the general public isn't always great. Not only can customers be rude, but they can be gross, especially in a grocery store. Noe Sanchez, head chef of Urban Market Chicago tells Eat This, Not That! Health, one thing that really bothers him about consumers shopping in the store is touching the meat packages. "Don't touch the meat packages and then go and touch produce – or really anything. The packaging of meat is dirty and I see it all the time where people handle the meat." In addition, Sanchez strongly suggests, "Using the hand sanitizers and wipes! They are at the front of the store for a reason, and yes, those shopping cart handles are dirty no matter how many times our staff cleans them." While that's definitely a health issue waiting to happen, there's other health hazards that Sean Marchese, MS, RN, a registered nurse at The Mesothelioma Center with a background in oncology clinical trials and over 15 years of direct patient care experience warn about when shopping for food. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


Don't Go to the Store Sick

Woman coughing in her elbow in grocery store.

Marchese says, "If you are experiencing a cough, runny nose, headaches, dizziness or shortness of breath, you may have mild symptoms of illness. However, mild symptoms for you may mean a more severe sickness for someone else. Germs can pass easily from items you touch at the grocery store to someone else. There are options for grocery delivery to your home that you can use instead. Otherwise, consider waiting a day or two until you feel better before you go grocery shopping." 

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Wash Your Hands Before, During and After a Trip to the Store

scrubbing soapy hand against washbasin

"Many grocery stores have hand sanitizer at the entrance for you to use," Marchese states. "They may also have sanitizing wipes to use on your cart before you take it into the store. Sanitizing your hands and your cart protects you and others from spreading germs. You may want to bring hand sanitizer to the store with you, as well. If you are handling lots of items or inspecting produce, there is a higher chance that you may be in contact with more germs." 

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Back Off and Don't Crowd Others

Woman in a disposable face mask is checking a shopping list on a smartphone in a supermarket

According to Marchese, "Social distancing is still an important and useful tactic in preventing the spread of COVID-19, the flu, and other illnesses in public spaces. When someone is browsing an area and you are waiting for them to finish, leave at least six feet between you and them. Don't stand close to others in line or in crowded areas such as the bakery or sandwich area. Practicing social distancing is a simple and effective way to lower the rate of disease transmission." 

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Don't Eat or Drink in the Store

young woman eating chocolate chip muffin
YIUCHEUNG / Shutterstock

Marchese explains, "Eating and drinking while shopping is a good way to get crumbs or spilled liquid in places where you didn't intend. Even worse, those tiny bits of food and drink you leave behind have been in contact with your mouth, making them more likely to carry germs if you're potentially sick. Skip the risk and wait until you're back outside before eating or drinking anything." 

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Avoid the Food Samples

Man holding cheese board of free samples at grocery store

"Most grocery stores have stopped handing out free samples since the start of the pandemic," says Marchese. "However, if you happen to see a free sample table or someone with a tray, politely decline. Food preparation is one way germs can travel between people, and a free sample station means that many people have been in that area touching food. Even if the person handing out free food is wearing gloves, it doesn't mean anyone else who stopped by did." 

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Heather Newgen
Heather Newgen has two decades of experience reporting and writing about health, fitness, entertainment and travel. Heather currently freelances for several publications. Read more about Heather
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