The 9 biggest infection risks at the supermarkets this Autumn and Winter


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Autumn and winter bring with them infections that we sometimes might not be aware of. As you shop for thanksgiving, all the way to Christmas, be aware that supermarkets pose the greatest infection risks in the Autumn and Winter!

The food industry is one of the five largest sectors in Germany. There is no shortage of food in Germany. They are available in high quality on markets or in wholesale and retail grocery stores, and German customers maintain their demand for fresh food with the highest possible quality presentation of goods. However, supermarkets still pose infection risks for consumers visiting them!

This ranges from brightly lit areas and conspicuously designed outer packaging to impeccable hygiene at the point of sale to specially scented sales areas.

The most important factor in the food industry is undoubtedly the freshness of the goods. It is a sign of safe, enjoyable consumption and testifies to the quality standards of the respective food manufacturer. Below are 9 of biggest infection risks for some diseases at the supermarkets this Autumn and Winter.

Quality risks in food production

Before we get to the food trade, we have to go into the production of food , after all, the majority of the food available in Germany comes from complex supply processes (food supply chains). Strict hygiene regulations in food production ensure that every link in the food chain is required to ensure the purity of the products. In other words: hygiene risks must be minimized.

If you consider that large supermarkets / hypermarkets often have up to 90,000 products in stock, all of which have gone through their own product safety processes, it becomes clear what great efforts are made to ensure the safety of consumers.

The way in which customers receive their food is just as varied: Fruits and fruits, for example, come loose in boxes, in bags, cut or even firmly packed. Frozen goods, dairy products, fish or meat are stored and offered in a cool temperature-controlled manner in accordance with special rules. . All these forms of storage and transport offer attack surfaces in order to potentially contaminate the product.

Numerous factors in the food chain can have a direct impact on food safety:

  • Pesticides, herbicides, genetically modified plants or infestation by pests.
  • The ingredients used and the method of production.
  • The quality of storage, packaging and product labeling.
  • The hygiene standards in handling the goods.

The 9 biggest infection risks in the supermarkets

1. Dealing with hygiene

One of the biggest problem factors for food contamination on the part of food manufacturers and grocers is inadequate compliance with employee hygiene regulations .

The following are not permitted in the immediate vicinity of food-producing processes, for example:

  • wearing loose hair
  • Food consumption or cigarette consumption
  • working with open wounds, skin infections or infectious diseases
  • wearing loose objects such as watches or jewelry

Thorough hand washing in food production is essential for high product quality.
Product contamination can be avoided by careful hand hygiene:

  • after processing raw meat and the tools used here
  • after going to the washrooms
  • after coughing, sneezing or blowing your nose
  • before and after putting on gloves
  • after using phones, coins or (garbage) containers
  • after using cleaning products such as mugs, cloths, sponges, chemicals, pesticides, etc

2. Bacteria on shopping carts and baskets

Supermarkets offer their customers shopping carts and baskets. Bacteria and other pathogens are passed on from person to person via these shopping aids, especially in busy retail. 

It is not uncommon for shopping carts to be parked outside the shops and exposed to bird droppings and similar pollution that are hazardous to health. This represents a major risk for food safety, as everything that customers pick up after touching the cart or shopping basket is also contaminated; Fresh fruit or vegetables, which can also be eaten raw, are included.

According to studies by the University of Arizona  (source: Maxwell, see below), shopping trolleys have a significantly higher level of bacterial contamination than the surfaces of public toilets . Escheria coli (E. coli) and other coliform bacteria were found on 72% of the shopping carts. A sign of fecal contamination. For comparison: in samples from changing tables, ATMs, restaurant counters and elevator fittings, this was only the case in about 7% of the cases.

Small children in particular, who are very sensitive to the ingestion (but also to their own transmission) of bacteria, touch everything and quickly bring their hands to their mouths. Health risks are just as pre-programmed as the transmission of bacteria.

3. Raw meat

Raw meat ingests bacteria and other pollutants on its way from farm to supermarket.

  • Poultry, raw meat, fish and shellfish can carry infectious diseases and are dangerous to the health of consumers if they are not properly processed, packaged and kept fresh.
  • Products that are prepared or prepared in the store, such as (pre-) cooked meat, cheese, bakery products are also subject to the strictest food safety guidelines in order to prevent food poisoning.
  • When looking for the “most beautiful” apples, tomatoes, peppers or cucumbers, customers touch products directly and can pass on pathogens.
  • Cold, sneezing people easily spread pathogens and bacteria in supermarkets with narrow markets on open carpets, such as fruit, vegetables, meat, cheese, etc.
  • Products that can be eaten raw and grow near the ground, such as lettuce, celery or strawberries, contain dirt particles.
  • Fresh fruits and vegetables should therefore always be washed thoroughly before consumption.


4. Rats and mice

Rodents not only gnaw on leftover food, as is usually found outside the market, but also on stocks. They don’t stop at outer packaging either.

The main risk of food contamination is the direct contamination of supplies. Mice and brown rats leave urine, excrement and greasy smudges on their often contaminated fur or extremities.

  • Food or easy access to water literally attracts mice and rats. Mice in particular do not want to travel long distances. They like to nestle in shelters and hiding places for a longer stay.
  • Loading zones and loading ramps, as well as the adjoining storage rooms and garbage containers, attract rodents and are often the main point of entry into the building.
  • Supermarkets, especially large or older ones, are easily accessible to rats and mice due to their open building structure (openings, ventilation systems, underground garages, pipe systems, cracks, crates, etc.). The latter in particular also fit through the smallest openings, while rats gnaw to enlarge holes that are too small without heart.
  • Once in the building, mice and rats quickly find enough hiding places.
  • Rats in particular reproduce quickly and easily grow into a large plague of rats.

5. Flies

Meat flies , fruit flies or houseflies  spread bacteria and other disease-causing microorganisms such as salmonella, E. coli, campylobacter or cryptosporidia, which is a headache for supermarket operators with fresh products.

  • Flies feed on rubbish residues, feces or rotting materials and contaminate the body and legs in the process.
  • They then transfer pathogens to food, which they also feed on.
  • Flies also leave digestive juices and excrement on food.

Professional electric fly traps , attract flies with their UV light and ensure effective fly control and repulsion. These include fly traps for sales rooms close to the public , as well as fly traps for wholesale markets that require holistic hygiene management.

ALSO READ: 6 typical causes of flies in the home, even in Autumn and Winter!

6. Roaches / cockroaches

Even cockroaches are attracted by the products in the food trade. You may contaminate the goods with: salmonella, staphylococci, listeria, E. coli bacteria, worms or fungi.

  • Cockroaches are attracted to the smallest bits of food and water. Spilled food, rubbish, and even outer packaging such as cardboard boxes are nourishing for cockroaches.
  • It is not uncommon for cockroaches to be introduced into the food departments of supermarkets as a result of negligent quality and hygiene procedures.
  • They also feed on feces, mold, and decayed animals, making them a significant health risk.

Cockroaches are very present in the grocery trade , as they nestle in countless dark corners, cracks and crevices, behind shelves or machines.

Poor food safety due to cockroach infestation:

  • When crawling, cockroaches leave behind excrement, moults (exuvia) and egg packets (ootheca), as well as saliva to feel their surroundings.
  • The saliva and excrement leave putrid smells on food, packaging and surfaces.
  • The moults and egg packets can trigger attacks of asthma and allergies.

Careful and sustainable care of the building fabric, goods and storage areas can curb cockroach infestation as well as great care when inspecting incoming goods and complying with the prescribed hygiene and logistics processes.

7. Building maintenance

Badly maintained buildings are a popular destination for rodents , flies , cockroaches , ants and pigeons. They can quickly get into the building through cracks in the masonry, holes in window panes, leaky doors, drains and pipe systems and cause mischief there. And with ease.

Once in the building, the pests have free access to open and concealed goods, as they can force their way through the smallest openings or gnaw them open. Hiding places can almost always be found here, including enough for a longer stay than the food manufacturer or retailer would like.

If you consider how quickly cockroaches and mice can multiply, a serious, image-damaging quality problem can quickly arise here.

8. Expiration dates, refrigeration, delivery

Nothing is as trendy in Germany as “healthy eating”.

However, the fresh ingredients from the organic sector naturally also require an intact supply chain that reduces the risk of infection through contamination as much as possible. Fast delivery, special cooling or storage may be necessary here so that the goods can be kept for a long time.

9. Food fraud

In Germany, too, there have already been so-called “rotten meat” incidents in which companies in the food industry have relabelled goods that were close to or over their use-by date.

If economic interests take precedence over health-related hygiene aspects, health risks can quickly arise.


Expaturm aims to help educate Expats in Germany on key issues that they will have to deal with while living in Germany by providing everything you need to know about Banking, Healthcare, Lifestyle, and Housing in Germany



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