I-Team: Grocery store inspections

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – We all trust that our supermarkets are clean.  Your town’s health department inspects them at least once a year.

The 22News I-Team reveals what is and isn’t inspected at grocery stores and you might be surprised where we found bacteria lingering.

The I-Team collected the latest health inspection report from every major western Massachusetts supermarket. We found dozens of violations, including mold, previous pest problems and droppings.  Most of the violations were minor from expired food to making sure the temperatures in the freezer or refrigerators were set properly.

Health Department’s don’t inspect everything.  Things like conveyor belts and shopping carts aren’t inspected regularly.  The I-Team decided to test child seats in shopping carts for total coliform bacteria and e-coli.

Watch the video below for the full report:


Rich Emerich is a lab technician at the Test America Lab in Westfield.

(Is it something that babies could carry in diapers?)

“Absolutely especially since e coli is a sub group of that any type of bacteria could be found in animal or human waste,” said Emerich.

After getting instructions and the materials, the 22News I-Team went to four supermarkets and tested child seats or child cars connected to shopping carts for bacteria.

We used a pre-sterilized gauze pad to sample the entire surface of the seats and steering wheels.  Two of the four samples tested positive for total coliform bacteria.

“It means that you found a few colonies of bacteria.  We were getting single digits which indicated very low concentration,” said Emerich.

We asked WalMart, Big Y and Stop & Shop for their shopping cart cleaning policies.

Stop & Shop sent us this statement; “Food safety and sanitation are very important at Stop & Shop and we take pride in keeping our stores clean. Like any other public surface, our carriages are not guaranteed to be bacteria free. However, we provide customers with sanitary wipes at all of our store entrances for the purposes of cleaning high contact surfaces, such as surfaces on our carriages and for personal use should our customers desire to use them.”

Big Y told the 22News I-Team they have hand cleaners and wipes at every entrance.  They recommend that you bag your produce and use a plastic bag for meats.  They also recommend washing your reusable bags.  Big Y says in addition to health inspections they have their own internal inspection team that examines their stores.  In terms of cleaning their shopping carts they use a pressure washer with a special solution to clean them, but remind us that it only takes one customer to transfer bacteria.

WalMart didn’t say how or how often they cleaned their carts, but did tell the 22News I-Team they offer sanitary wipes at the front end of their stores.

Emerich told 22News that slight amount of contamination wasn’t a need for concern, but the easiest way to disinfect these surfaces is with an alcohol wipe or even a baby wipe that has enough alcohol to remove that type of bacteria from the surface.

To see the latest health inspection for where you shop, you can click on your town or city below:

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