Employees and customers can help to keep the store environments clean, sanitary and healthy, according to J. Hudson Garrett Jr., PhD, MSN, MPH, APRN, FNP-BC, director of clinical affairs and corporate training for Professional Disposables International, Inc.
Grocery Headquarters: What is the single most important way to prevent the spread of infection in the grocery store environment?
J. Hudson Garrett Jr.: Hand hygiene using soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub such as an impregnated wipe is the single most important method to reducing the risk for infection transmission. It is also critical to actively engage not only the store staff, but also the customers in hand hygiene by offering hand hygiene throughout the store, thereby encouraging both staff and customers to practice frequent hand hygiene.
Locations such as the pharmacy, check out lines, shopping cart barn, deli/bakery, and customer service are key areas in which hand hygiene should be offered. It is important to use a product that has an alcohol concentration above 60%, such as Sani-Hands or Sani-Hands for Kids.
How can I help keep the shopping carts clean and free of deadly pathogens?
Regular cleaning and disinfection of environmental surfaces with an EPA registered disinfectant will reduce the amount of bacteria present on surfaces, thereby reducing the risk for infection transmission when used appropriately.
A thorough environmental disinfection program is a critical component in reducing the risk for infection transmission. Disinfectant wipes, such as Sani-Cloth, offer the consumer a quick, easy, and efficacious solution to disinfecting high touch surfaces such as shopping carts and baskets. By regularly disinfecting these items and also practicing frequent hand hygiene, the chain of infection transmission will be broken.
What steps should employees take to prevent the spread of infection?
Employees play a critical role in the prevention of infection and disease transmission in the grocery store environment.
First, if an employee suspects that he or she might be ill, they should remain home from work, and not attempt to come to work until the illnesses resolves or they are released back to work by a healthcare provider.
Second, frequent hand hygiene using soap and water or an alcohol-based hand hygiene product such as an impregnated wipe, is the primary defense mechanism to preventing the spread of germs.
Finally, the cleaning and disinfection of surfaces such as countertops, cutting boards, merchandise belts, computer keyboards, etc. is another key intervention in reducing the spread of pathogens.
What types of environmental cleaning and disinfection products should retailers use to clean frequently touched surfaces?
In the U.S., all disinfectant products are required to be registered with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The product that is chosen should be effective against a wide variety of both bacteria and viruses such as MRSA, E.coli, Influenza, Rhinovirus, etc. It is important to read the manufacturer’s product label fully, and understand the proper use of the product. Disinfectant wipes offer the staff member and consumer a ready-to-use disinfecting solution and replaces the commonly used bucket and rag approach. Reusing rags creates a risk for cross contamination.
There are also no-rinse sanitizing solutions available such as Sani-Wipe that can be used on hard non-porous food contact surfaces to help prevent cross-contamination from bacteria that can cause foodborne illness.