In the June issue of the Journal of Food Protection, a study conducted in Foodborne Disease Active Surveillance Network (FoodNet) sites identified an association between riding in a shopping cart next to raw meat or poultry products and infection caused by Salmonella or Campylobacter in infants younger than 1 year.
FoodNet is the principal foodborne disease component of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Emerging Infections Program, a collaborative project involving the CDC, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and 10 state health departments.
According to the study, Salmonella and Campylobacter are the most common causes of bacterial gastroenteritis in the United States, resulting in an estimated 1.4 and 2.4 million illnesses each year, respectively. Infants and children younger than 5 years are at increased risk, with reported rates 2 to 10 times higher than for persons 5 years or older.
Among infants, riding in a shopping cart next to packaged raw meat and poultry has been shown to be an important risk factor for Salmonella and Campylobacter infection.
Salmonella and Campylobacter have been detected on the outside of packages of meat and poultry at retail outlets which indicates that these contaminated surfaces could play a role in transmission.
They defined exposure as answering yes to one of a series of questions asking if packages of raw meat or poultry were near a child in a shopping cart, or if a child was in the cart basket at the same time as was raw meat or poultry.
“We compared children who were exposed to raw meat and poultry products with those not exposed by the following variables: location of the child in the shopping cart (i.e., only seat, only basket, both basket and seat, any basket [includes only basket and both basket and seat]) and sociodemographic characteristics (parent’s education level, household income, race or ethnicity),” reported the researchers.
Among 1,273 respondents, 767 (60 percent) reported that their children visited a grocery store in the past week and rode in shopping carts. Among these children, 103 (13 percent) were exposed to raw products. Children who rode in the baskets were more likely to be exposed than were those who rode only in the seats.
“Our study shows that children can be exposed to raw meat and poultry products while riding in shopping carts. Parents should separate children from raw products and place children in the seats rather than in the baskets of the cart. Retailer use of leak proof packaging, customer placement of product in a plastic bag and on the rack underneath the cart, use of hand sanitizers and wipes, and consumer education may also be helpful.”