When discussing farm-to-fork food safety, it’s common to overlook consumer behavior in the store. Researchers at Tennessee State University report that over 60 percent of surfaces of meat packages are contaminated with meat juice, which transfers to shoppers’ hands and grocery carts. While the researchers did not specifically test for the presence of human pathogens in these juices, other studies report a high prevalence of the human pathogens Campylobacter and Salmonella in raw meat juices. This study reports that using secondary plastic bags to handle poultry packages at the store essentially eliminates the risk of cross-contamination during shopping, and this practice is significantly more effective than using secondary plastic bags at the check-out. Researchers also warn that re-packing at home exposes home kitchens to contamination. For a safer shopping experience, always use a secondary plastic bag to handle poultry containers in the store, do not re-pack poultry at home, keep meat frozen or refrigerated until immediately prior to use, and do not re-use plastic bags that contained poultry.
NIFA supports this research through the Agricultural Food and Research Initiative.
Read more about this project through NIFA’s Data Gateway