No one likes to think that the attractive, colorful foods we buy in that brightly lighted, well-maintained supermarket might contain things — among them, bacteria — that aren’t obvious.

But in case you need a refresher course in Food Safety 101, the January-February 2018 AARP Bulletin provides one. “Superdirty? Find Hidden Germs in Your Supermarket” reads the red-and-black teaser on the cover.

The two-page story, titled “How Safe Is Your Supermarket?”, features colorful graphics and describes the hazards — some well-hidden; others obvious, if you know what to look for.


In fact, the AARP press release on the January-February Bulletin says that the story details “29 places where harmful bacteria hide at your supermarket”(press.aarp.org/press-releases?category=791&keywords=how+safe+is+your+supermarket).

Spoiler alert: Some of the warnings are downright unappetizing.

Under “Finger-Licking Bagger,” for example, is this tidbit: “A lot of customers lick their fingers to pry open an off-the-roll plastic bag before picking through produce, so saliva from untold numbers of people coats foods.” The solution, according to Deirdre Schlunegger, chief executive officer of Stop Foodborne Illness, an advocacy group? “Wash produce when you get home,” the article quotes her as saying.

Another potential problem is damage. The article’s author, Richard Laliberte, warns that “Nicks and bruises on fruits and vegetables compromise the integrity of protective skins and give bacteria easier access to inner flesh, which is harder to wash.”

Even bulk bags can disguise problems, Laliberte notes. “It’s difficult for store workers to see quality problems and cull items from prepackaged bags, so you’re likelier to bring home damaged or rotten products in a bag than if you had handpicked each item.”

You get the message. The story also contains plenty of advice on what to beware of at supermarket salad and hot-food bars.

For more information, including a summary of the article “How safe is your supermarket?”, visit https://press.aarp.org/2018-1-3-January-February-AARP-Bulletin-Special-Report-Great-Second-Careers.

For information about joining AARP, visit www.aarp.org.