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Observed something interesting at Wegman's

Sitting in the cafe, table next to balcony overlooking the hot and cold food bars at a Wegman's Market Cafe (Northeast supermarket) I saw something interesting. An employee came out to the hot/cold food bar with an instant read thermometer and poked it in to some lasagne (or something like that) sitting in it's metal tray. Hey, I thought, good to know they do check that stuff since I always figured it wasn't kept hot enough. Then the employee wiped the thermometer off with a cloth and poked it into the cold tray with fruit. Guess they need to make sure it's being kept cold enough, too. Then the lightbulb went *off*... if you are a strict vegetarian that's another reason you better stay away from those hot/cold food bars!

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  1. It might be worthwhile to notify a manager of this so that he or she could review proper health code practices with all deli employees. Maybe turn what you saw into a learning exprience for all? Just one person's idea.

    1. If you're that strict of a vegetarian I suggest you prepare all of your food at home... this kind of minor cross-contamination happens all the time...

      1. Not sure what the issue is here, since the employee wiped the thermometer.

        And the store is called Wegmans. No apostrophe.

        2 Replies
        1. re: linguafood

          Thermometer is supposed to be wiped with a antiseptic wipe, like a one use alcohol wipe

          1. re: 3MTA3

            Is that really your laws down there? A hot cloth should be fine, a cloth with bleach is better.

        2. that kind of thing should be reported to management and/or the health department - it's really dangerous.

          worst-case scenario: unsuspecting customer innocently purchases & consumes what he or she logically assumes is "safe" fruit from the cold bar, and ends up experiencing a life-threatening allergic reaction because some bonehead contaminated it with particulate matter left on the thermometer by an item from the hot bar that contained eggs, seafood, nuts, dairy...

          and yes, i KNOW that people with allergies are responsible for their own safety and need to understand the risks involved in consuming pretty much *anything* they haven't prepared themselves, but what that employee did was extremely irresponsible.

          8 Replies
          1. re: goodhealthgourmet

            Sure. Because no one at a salad bar has ever used the same spoon for two different trays of food. That would never, ever happen. Salad bars would be completely safe, if not for these dastardly thermometer bandits.

            1. re: small h

              that's not what i'm saying. i already stated that people KNOW there's an inherent risk when taking food from these sources. *however* i do believe the stores and their employees also have a responsibility to preserve the safety and integrity of the food they sell to the greatest extent that THEY can, irrespective of what customers may do.

              1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                store have the obligation to serve safe food, not allergy free food nor "preserve...the integrity".

                Any intelligent human being with an allergy will look at the bar, see there is a food they are allergic to and walk away. If they think that the salad bar is a "Magical Salad Bar" with zero cross-contamination possible, they better wake up before they have a neat little ride on a gurney.

                1. re: jfood

                  i think i'm picturing a different setup than you are. the way i read the OP, Wegmans has *separate* hot & cold food bars. if that's the case, why would a customer assume that the food in the cold bar had been contaminated by something from the hot bar? are there magical bar-hopping ingredients in the food that can leap out of the pans and across the aisle from one bar to another?

                  1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                    "the hot/cold food bar" seems like one, but very good question ghg.

                    one might expect the food from the cold and those in the hot are separated, if in two spots. But if the person has an allergy so severe that a miniscule amount of allergan from a thermometer causes a reaction, that person needs extreme dilligence and the salad bar is probably not a good place to chow.

                    1. re: jfood

                      i'm not disagreeing with you that it's best for the severely allergic to forgo these things. but i was picturing something similar to the setup at WFM, where hot & cold food bars are totally separate. in fact, the fruit is typically in its own section, which is why one might be inclined to assume it could be relatively safe from cross-contamination.

                      anyway, no need to beat a dead horse. i guess as a few have already pointed out, it's nice to know that they're at least maintaining safe food temps!

                      1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                        dead horse being beaten here - my WF has hot and cold mixed since we are so urban and so there so very limited in space

            2. re: goodhealthgourmet

              Management, possibly -- a second thermometre is not that big an investment. The health department, not so much. Cross-contamination happens BEFORE food is cooked (or after it falls into the 40-140 F "danger zone"). The only way they would care is if there were, say, meat hanging out of the fruit which was at room temperature -- but since the thermometre was wiped off, that's unlikely.

              Health departments don't care about allergies, for the most part. I don't know any health departments that require that peanuts be kept isolated, or wheat gluten products, or dairy, or soy.

            3. No point in alerting the health departhment. They do the same exact thing. They come behind the ktichen line and poke their thermometer into different things and wipe them off with a cloth and stick them into something else.

              Are you suggesting they carry several different thermometers to check different foods?

              2 Replies
              1. re: monku

                Absolutely! I've seen the health guys doing inspections around here and that's exactly what they do. They carry ONE calibrated thermometer with which they test everything -- wiping it off between insertions.

                1. re: Atahualpa

                  I have also seen the Inspector use the same thermometer along the whole line from salads, thru hot foods to desserts, with a cursory wipe in between.

              2. As jfood was readingthe OP he was wondering where it was going.

                - Check the temperature of the hot food...check
                - wipe the thermometer...check
                - check the temperature of the cold food...check
                - end of OP

                Jfood was hoping, well maybe not, that the OP was going to say he licked the thermometer and then placed it into the fruit. But nope, the issue was he wiped it off.

                And people want to call the Health Dept? Ur kidding? It's a salad bar with tons of x-contaminations. And the deli people are assuring the food is in the proper temperature range.

                Once again no good deed goes unpunished.

                1 Reply
                1. re: jfood

                  It was a good read and made me giggle since I just posted about roaches.

                2. Nothing that is in the open like that is free from cross-contamination to begin with - and if I had allergies of such severity that they might be triggered in this situation, I would not be eating from anything in the open like this.

                  Wegmans looks like they were reasonably on the ball here. Be grateful someone is QCing the temps.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Karl S

                    That was my thinking, too. At least they have procedures in place to insure that the hot and cold foods are being kept at safe temps.

                  2. I agree that it's good they are doing quality control, but worth noting as a reminder to people with allergies. Even if it seems safe, it may not be. My hubby, for example, has celiac and must eat gluten free--even a trace would make him ill.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: mom22tots

                      Actually, that was the original thought I had, gee, it is comforting to know they are checking the temps on the hot and cold items. It was a strange combination hot and cold set up, I know usually they don't mix the two on the same "island".
                      Second part of the commentary was somewhat sarcastic (as some people picked up on), that people who are hyper sensistive (emotionally, not putting down people with real food allergies) shouldn't eat outside their homes.