Tag Archives: ‘supermarket’

What’s the germiest surface in a supermarket? You might be surprised

In light of the global COVID-19 pandemic, Canada’s biggest grocery store chains have increased their cleaning and disinfecting measures. But how well is that working?

CBC’s Marketplace visited 24 grocery stores around Toronto to swab the following high-touch surfaces: shopping cart handle, front of the shopping cart, baby seat, basket handle, freezer door handle and PIN pad.

In total, Marketplace collected more than 130 samples from the country’s biggest chains and some of their subsidiaries — Walmart, Costco, Sobeys and Freshco, Loblaws and No Frills, Metro and Food Basics.

The samples were then tested by an accredited microbiological laboratory in Mississauga, Ont.

The goal was not to compare the grocery chains but to determine which surfaces in general have the most germs.

As research on COVID-19 evolves, scientists say surfaces are not the main way the novel coronavirus is transmitted. But high-touch surfaces can nonetheless be a way for other types of pathogens to spread.

The lab tested the swabs for the total number of bacteria on each surface, as well as for E. coli, which is often an indication of cleanliness.

Jason Tetro, a microbiology expert, analyzed the swab results.

“The takeaway is this: Grocery stores have implemented new practices to try and improve hygiene, and as we’ve seen, it’s actually doing a good job in one [respect],” he said. “Is there room for improvement? Absolutely.”

Germiest surface

The surface with the most bacteria was the PIN pad used during checkout.


“We saw lots of bacteria [there],” said Tetro.

Marketplace producers rarely saw grocery store employees wiping down PIN pads between customers.

Tetro said that when it comes to the PIN pad, there could be room for improved cleaning. “It really is something that we need to be taking a closer look at and maybe doing some better disinfection protocols.”

The surface with the second-highest bacteria count was the basket handle. 

Tied for third place were the freezer door handle and the front of the shopping cart — the part you would grab if you were to pull the cart toward yourself.

While some surfaces had more bacteria than others, some microbiologists Marketplace spoke to, including Jeff Farber at the University of Guelph, cautioned that not all bacteria are problematic and that sometimes a low bacteria count can still be concerning if it contains more dangerous bacteria.

Industry mindful of customer safety

The Canadian Retail Council, which represents all of the supermarkets Marketplace swabbed, said that the grocery industry has worked closely with governments and health agencies across Canada to ensure health, safety and security. 

“Designated as essential retailers, grocers led the way on how to operate safely in a retail environment, one that has since been followed by others as they have reopened or revamped operations,” a CRC spokesperson said via email. 

In a statement, Loblaw said, “We are confident that our protocols and sanitization efforts have contributed to keeping [customers] safe and well.” 

WATCH | Here’s what we found by testing more than 130 swabs from 24 different grocery stores:

CBC Marketplace tested more than 130 swabs from across 24 different grocery stores to reveal which surfaces have the most bacteria. 4:25

Metro said it’s been working closely with Public Health units across Ontario and that its “operations team is in daily contact with our stores to reinforce our operational best practices and safety protocols.” 

Walmart said via email that it continues to take measures to support the well-being of customers and associates through “regular cleaning of high-touch areas such as checkouts, payment terminal keypads and shopping carts.”

Some grocers provided more specific information on their cleaning measures. For example, Costco said that frequently touched surfaces like the debit machine are sanitized every hour, while Sobeys said it has started rolling out PIN pad covers to make the surface easier to clean.

Cleanest surface a surprise to experts

The cleanest surface in grocery stores was the shopping cart handle.

“I’m literally shocked that it’s the lowest [bacteria count], because it should be the highest,” said Tetro. He has swabbed grocery carts in the past and has found them to have high bacteria counts and traces of E.coli — but not this time. 

Alexandra Calle, an assistant professor of microbiology at Texas Tech University, has also swabbed shopping cart handles, and was similarly surprised at the low bacterial count found in this test.

What’s changed? Tetro and Calle said it seems the enhanced cleaning protocols supermarkets have implemented in this area are working. 

The majority of the carts swabbed by Marketplace producers had either just been sprayed and wiped by an employee or were chosen from a row of carts with a sign indicating they had recently been sanitized. From what the producers saw, most shopping carts were regularly cleaned after each use. 

“You try to have a benchmark — what should we be looking for when it comes to a bacterial number? Well, now we know,” Tetro said. “We should be doing as good as the shopping cart handle.”


Shopping cart handles were the cleanest high-touch surface, according to a swab test conducted by Marketplace producers and analyzed by a lab in Mississauga. (Caitlin Tayor/CBC)

Runner-up for the cleanest surface was the baby seat. Tetro suspects this is because the baby seat is likely being sprayed by some of the disinfectant that’s aimed at the shopping cart handle.

“That bystander effect is making a baby seat actually safer than anytime I’ve ever seen it in the past,” he said.  

Sanitizing solutions

None of the surfaces Marketplace swabbed had E. coli, a fecal coliform often found in the digestive tract. 

When E. coli is found on highly touched surfaces, it’s an indication that whoever touched the surface last did not properly wash their hands, likely after using the washroom. 

For Tetro and other microbiologists Marketplace spoke with, the fact that E. coli wasn’t found on any of the surfaces is another sign that cleaning protocols and proper hand-washing — or at least applying hand sanitizer when entering a grocery store — are working. 

“Hand sanitizer, as we all know, is really good at getting rid of E. coli,” said Tetro.

Tetro’s tips

Despite the increased sanitation measures grocery stores have instituted, Tetro said there are additional steps shoppers can take in order to practise good hygiene.

When paying for your groceries, Tetro recommends using the tap feature where it’s available. (In April, Mastercard and Visa raised the tap limit on all credit card transactions from $ 100 to $ 250 to facilitate more contactless payments.)

When cleaning surfaces, Tetro said to remember that cleaners and disinfectants need time to work. This is known as contact time, and it varies depending on the sanitization product. 

Tetro says a common way germs spread is through our hands. 

“You have to realize, you touch your face about 16 times every hour,” he said. “You cannot help it, that’s just who you are.”

He suggests using “an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, 62 to 70 percent ethanol or alcohol for 15 seconds of wetness on your hands …. [That’s] going to be efficient to keep you safe.”

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CBC | Health News

Is the celery juice craze driving up the price at the supermarket?

If you’ve noticed your greens are costing you a little more green, you’re not alone — especially when it comes to celery. The celery juice diet craze might be thinning out more wallets than waistlines.

“It’s a fortune — it’s the highest I’ve ever paid. We’re talking well over $ 100 a case,” said Carmelo Papia, producer manager at Fiesta Farms in Toronto.

At nearly $ 6 a bunch, he says he’s never seen celery sell for so much in the more than 30 years he’s been working at the grocery store. “What we’re selling them for, we aren’t really making any money.”

The price of vegetables is up nearly 16 per cent compared to the same time last year, according to Statistics Canada.

Workers harvest celery in a field in Brawley, Calif, on Jan. 31, 2017. One of the reasons the celery supply is low right now is due to recent heavy rain in the U.S. state. (Sandy Huffaker/AFP/Getty Images)

University of Guelph food economist Mike von Massow says a number of factors could be impacting the price we’re paying for celery, including local climate and growing conditions, transportation and even tighter border controls.

While some of those factors may be at play, he also says there is a relatively small market for celery to begin with, so even a slight increase in demand can trigger the changes consumers are seeing now.

“I wouldn’t say celery is a staple vegetable for most people. So if you have a narrow market to start with, that can drive price changes, because it’s much harder for that supply to respond.”

While rain in California has disrupted celery’s growing cycle and reduced supply in some areas, Papia says he believes the increase in price has little to do with supply. Rather, it has to do with demand.

“The availability, there’s a lot; it’s not short or anything … I’m not having a hard time getting celery,” he said. “I know there’s a lot of health benefits to it. That’s what they’re saying.”

What’s behind the celery juice craze?

Dietitians say there’s no scientific evidence that proves many of the health claims made by celery juice supporters, including providing relief from autoimmune conditions and eczema. 3:56

Papia is referring to celery’s recent popularity in wellness circles. More specifically, the popularity of celery juice.

The trend has been heavily promoted by celebrities and influencers on social media, including actor Sylvester Stallone and supermodel Miranda Kerr, who have appeared in videos supporting the self-proclaimed founder of the celery juice movement, Anthony William.

William calls himself a “medical medium” and claims to speak with spirits who provide him with advanced health information. He is not a medical doctor, but his latest book — titled Celery Juice and set to be released in May — claims the juice can save lives and is the most powerful medicine of our time.

His website says a 16-ounce glass of pure celery juice first thing in the morning on an empty stomach can help relieve numerous health conditions, including everything from autoimmune conditions and high blood pressure, to eczema and migraines, and even help you slim down.

Despite little science to back up the claims, there are hundreds of testimonials on YouTube, Instagram and Facebook. Fans commonly claim it clears up skin issues and reduces bloating.

How does celery juice supposedly work?

How does William’s “miracle” cure supposedly work? He says it has to do with so-called sodium cluster salts in celery juice, which work to flush out toxins, viruses and bacteria.

Registered dietitian Nishta Saxena is among those questioning William’s claims around the effectiveness of celery juice.

“Currently in nutrition science, in food science, we don’t actually have evidence that cluster salts are an existing compound,” said Saxena.

Celery is rich in vitamin K, fibre and some phytochemicals. But many of the nutrients found in celery come from eating the entire stalk, one registered dietitian says. (Dave MacIntosh/CBC)

Suggesting any single food item is a cure-all to complex illnesses or diseases is a stretch, she says.

“Any diseases that people are struggling with often have come to fruition because of a variety of factors in life. So when we think of eating celery as a singular solution to any particular health concern, ailment as the ‘I drink celery juice and it cures me,’ that doesn’t really make a lot of sense.”

One small study in 2013 suggested celery seed extract could help with high blood pressure, and another study in 2009 on rats found that the juice of celery leaves might help reduce a harsh side-effect of one chemotherapy drug.

But Saxena says she hasn’t seen any randomized trials or studies that actually prove juice extracted from celery is the miracle cure it is often touted as.

‘No other trend propelled so much healing’

Self-proclaimed founder of the global celery juice movement Anthony William calls himself a “medical medium” and claims to speak to spirits who provide him with advanced health information. (YouTube/Medical Medium)

Marketplace reached out to William, who responded with an emailed statement: “For naysayers to merely claim there is no scientific evidence, which means the chronically ill all over the world aren’t really healing, is a great insult to the ones who have suffered and are now getting relief from drinking celery juice.”

He also claims no other trend has propelled so much healing in history and “the reason it is accelerating at such a speed without funding behind it is because it actually works.”

Celery is rich in vitamin K, fibre and some phytochemicals. And while Saxena says you can rarely go wrong eating green vegetables, she warns there could be too much of a good thing.

Drinking excessive amounts of celery juice can “actually change the function of any medications that you may already be taking,” she said.

If you think you’re getting all the benefits of eating a whole stalk of celery by drinking a single glass, Saxena says you should think again.

Many of the nutrients found in celery come from eating the entire stalk, she said. Juicing strips out much of the pulp, which is where most those beneficial nutrients are found.

How long will it last?

While many food fads have come and gone, others are sustained, says von Massow.

He points to quinoa as an example. About a decade ago, the grain was not a popular food. But it remains a staple on store shelves today, in part thanks to its protein content and an endorsement from Oprah.

Fad or not, the celery supply will respond to demand, von Massow says.

“If this is a sustained change in demand, we will see people plant more celery. If it’s not a sustained increase, if celery all of a sudden goes the way of the dodo bird, celery demand will go down — and price will go with it.”

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Russian security agency arrests supermarket bombing suspect

A man was arrested Saturday in connection with a St. Petersburg supermarket bombing that wounded 18 people, Russia’s main domestic security agency said.

Eight people remain hospitalized after a device exploded Wednesday in a storage area for customers’ bags. Investigators said the homemade device contained 200 grams of explosives and was rigged with shrapnel to cause more damage.

The Federal Security Service, or FSB, did not identify the suspect or provide any details about his motive. The agency said in a statement carried by Russian news agencies that he organized and carried out the attack on his own.

ISIS claimed responsibility for the blast, but a member of the security committee in the lower house of Russia’s parliament cast doubt on the claim, saying it might have been an attempt by ISIS to gain publicity.

“Now, when the [ISIS] defeat in Syria seriously dented its image, it will try to restore its authority and claim responsibility for the attacks by others,” Adalbi Shakhgoshev said, according to Russian news wires.

The FSB said that it has handed over the suspect to the Investigative Committee, the nation’s top investigative agency. The FSB normally deals with terror suspects itself, and the transfer could indicate that the man had other motives.

The Interfax news agency reported that the suspect was a 35-year old local resident who said he was a member of an occult movement and was taking drugs.

Russian law enforcement agencies stopped short of immediately describing the supermarket blast as a terror attack, but President Vladimir Putin called it one Thursday. He added that he ordered security agencies to kill terror suspects on the spot if they resist arrest.

Russia supermarket blast

Eighteen people were hurt in the blast. (National Anti-Terrorism Committee/Reuters)

Russia target of multiple attacks this year

Putin emphasized that Russia’s two-year military campaign in Syria helped avert more terror attacks by eliminating militants who threatened Russia.

“What would have happened if those hundreds, thousands … had come back to us, trained, armed and well-prepared?” he said.

The Russian leader previously said that over 4,000 citizens from Russia and some 5,000 people from other ex-Soviet nations have joined ISIS.

In April, a suicide bombing in St. Petersburg’s subway left 16 people dead and wounded more than 50. Russian authorities identified the bomber as a 22-year old Kyrgyz-born Russian national.

Earlier this month, Putin declared victory in Syria and ordered a partial withdrawal of Russian troops from the country. Russia waged an air campaign in Syria since September 2015, helping President Bashar Assad’s forces rout both ISIS and the rebels opposing his regime and recapture wide swathes of land.

Also earlier this month, Putin telephoned U.S. President Donald Trump to thank him for what the Kremlin described as a CIA tip that prevented more bombings in St. Petersburg, Putin’s hometown.

The Federal Security Service said seven ISIS-linked suspects were arrested in connection to the alleged plot. The Kremlin said the suspects had planned to bomb the landmark Kazan Cathedral and other crowded sites.

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