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I will NEVER buy fresh meat from the butcher's counter at my local (insert well-known grocery store chain here), and here's why: WINDEX!

OK, so I am grocery shopping at my most frequented grocery store a few months ago, and saw something that I just can not get out of my mind.

In fact, it has forever altered my opinion of the entire fresh meat area in this store, and now I am beginning to worry about other stores as well. And yes, I still shop there - it's close, convenient, and otherwise has a good variety of foods.
BUT, never, ever, ever, will I buy meat from the glass cases, where all the fresh "unpackaged" meats are displayed.

Why, you ask?

Well, let's resume the story...
So I am grocery shopping at my most frequented local grocery store, standing in an aisle adjacent to the meat department, looking at soup or whatever, when all of a sudden, I see an employee open the meat counter glass display door thingys (they open from the front, where customers stand), and spray the entire inside of the glass with Windex.
There she was, spray, spray, spray, wipe, wipe, wipe, thinking she was doing a great job cleaning the insides of the display cases.

And my jaw dropped in horror. I couldn't believe what I was watching.

All I could think of was all of that Windex mist falling, falling, falling directly onto all that fresh meat. I mean, WHY would she do that? Everyone knows that when you spray anything from a spray bottle, it falls down, misting whatever is underneath it. And believe me, that opened display glass was directly over the meat.
Why oh why didn't she spray the cloth first (away from the food, please) and then wipe the glass? Where was her manager? Who trained her? Does she know that all of that meat will now have a funny chemical taste to it? Does she know what she is doing? Who hired her? Why doesn't she KNOW this is not right?

I have not since and never will purchase meat there again, period. She totally ruined it for me.

Am I overreacting?? I mean, we probably eat many, many things in our foods that shouldn't be there (hair, lint, bacteria, someone's eyelash, whatever) all year long. But man, I just don't want to know about it OR see it.

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  1. Whether or not you are overreacting is irrelevant, in my opinion. If you are uncomfortable eating windex, then you are reacting in an appropriate manner. I know I would not pay good money for ammonia! Well, not to eat it at least.

    I think you should call and let them know what was going on. It doesn't even have to be by name or "the employee working at 5pm on Sunday". If you inform them, then it could just be a general reminding of proper practices and food handling.

    Yeah, that is just gross.

    1 Reply
    1. re: MinkeyMonkey

      That would turn me off as well. Talk to the meat manager.

    2. I was in a Japanese restaurant and watched in amazement as a worker squirted glass cleaner *inside* the sushi case. When I told the manager he defended the worker and said that there was a layer of plastic wrap between the fish and where he was spraying. I didn't buy that. The plastic was wrinkled and in several pieces; the glass cleaner surely would've gotten through.

      The OP should have informed the meat manager/store manager immediately.

      I've seen the new display cases that save the workers having to squeeze in from the back to clean the glass. They have 'em at the deli and the meat counter where I shop. I'm tempted to wait around some night to see how they clean the deli glass. I could see how easy it would be for a lazy employee not to take the food out of the case before cleaning the glass.

      1. I'm sure someone will come around and post how Windex is 1% ammonia (or whatever) and 99% water and the chemicals are perfectly safe and no more than whatever other chemicals we're getting from whatever else the meat touched and besides a lot of it evaporated on its way from the spray bottle to the meat and didn't you cook the meat anyway and if you're going to be that picky you might as well stay home in your hermetically sealed bubble.

        HOWEVER, it all still sounds really gross to me.

        Speaking of gross things. I could be just imagining this, but I've eaten at least two take out food items in the last two weeks that had an alcohol taste to them. One was so bad I had to return it and ask for my money back. it got me thinking that maybe the preparers in both cases had overdone their use of hand sanitizer and took to the food prep task while their hands were still wet with the goop.

        1. This is perhaps a contrarian viewpoint (and to be clear, I'm writing as someone who used to work for an industrial cleaning company that cleaned restaurants and retail food stores), but yes, I think you may be slightly overreacting. For one thing, was the employee using an actual bottle of blue liquid marked Windex, or are you using that as a generic term for a glass cleaner in a spray bottle?

          Because if the latter, then chances are good -- probable, in fact -- that the employee was using not Windex but an equally common and entirely non-toxic glass cleaner whose active ingredients are white vinegar and citrus oils. I'm not arguing that said employee shouldn't have done as you suggest (spraying the cloth), I'm just saying that it's possible that it was not Windex that was being sprayed.

          2 Replies
          1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

            Do you have a link that shows what this cleaner might be? I did a Google search for "citrus cleaner" and there is not a single item listed that I would want sprayed on my food.

            For example ... this: http://www.greenhome.com/products/hou...

            Here is the product info sheet: http://www.greenhome.com/products/msd...

            1. re: taos

              I know that this is a late response, but they may have been talking about Sun & Earth Glass Cleaner. It's made from Citrus and Coconut oils and corn based ingredients. It is non-toxic.

          2. That would bother me as well. A similar problem for me is when seated at a table and a staff person sprays the table next to me with some HD cleaning spray to wipe the table down for the next guest.
            The spray goes everywhere, and is usually very strong with a chemical oder. Just about makes me gag on the spot. Just plain stupid IMO.

            4 Replies
            1. re: pacheeseguy

              I dislike when busboys or servers start vacuuming or using the carpet sweeper around me while I am eating. This is not uncommon at Applebees near where I live.

              I also dislike going somewhere and no tables are clean so they take you to a table then leave you standing while they go get a pretty disgusting cloth and 'clean' the table.

              1. re: smartie

                Yes, that whole wiping the table down before they seat you at a restaurant bothers me too.

                Unless that rag is brand new, has bleach on it, and/or is washed/bleached/sanitized after every single time you use it, all they are doing with a damp dirty rag is spreading the bacteria evenly all over the top of your table.

                I remember watching a Discovery Channel special or whatever where they studied the filth content of various items in the typical kitchen - the dish rag or sponge in a typical kitchen was actually dirtier than the toilet. Full of more bacteria, etc.

                When I see them do it, I literally stand there thinking, "Gee, thanks for making sure the bacteria is so evenly distributed for me".
                I know, not nice, but true nonetheless.

                I wish I could just merrily be-bop into stores and restuarants having no clue whatsoever about anything other than filling up my cart or eating. I wish I didn't notice these things, really.

                1. re: aces551

                  RELAX PEOPLE..... as for the comment above... your intestines, colon, face, etc. are all covered in various bacteria and parasites... pinworm is about 10% of the population, toxoplasma gondii about 33%... and bacteria are ubiquitous... you might as well complain about the sun...
                  As for the windex issues, windex is about 28% ammonia which would be harmful if you drank directly from the bottle... several bottles... plus it is volatile and breaks down immediately (producing a strong smell b/c it is in a gas state)... I would suggest going to another grocery store if such bothers you..

                  1. re: guybelligerent

                    That's exactly how not calling the health department is rationalized by consumers and how businesses get away with practicing some of the things they do that actually DO make people sick.
                    Nobody says that a small amount of Windex is going to make anyone sick, because it won't.
                    The market I know about, that was actually closed down by the health department, by all appearances was clean and happens to be in a very upper class neighborhood. The infractions that came down from the health department were staggering and 'going to another grocery store', for some, isn't an option.
                    While, for the most part, what you've stated is true there are sanitary problems that can/do lead to health problem in grocery stores that should not be overlooked.

            2. Its not the taste that would bother me, but the smell......I hate the smell of cleaners around food....

              Not too long ago I was at a delicious restaurant for lunch, and the place was deserted. I was feeling badly for them until a worker started mopping the floor near me with a strong ammonia detergent. That's the last thing I want to smell when eating...It totally turned me off despite the delicious food and I vowed not to return. Then very recently some friends told me about this great new place that I had to try. We went there in the evening, and it wasn't until I'd been sitting there for a few minutes that I was in the same place where I had been turned off by the cleaning smell.....and the food was every bit as delicious as I remembered. So restaurant and food workers, remember the noses of your poor customers, even if you think they are all alone and aren't worried about the reaction of a single person. That person could be a chowhound who might be deterred from a very favorable post by something like your moping the floor next to her....

              2 Replies
              1. re: janetofreno

                I'm with you there. Unless a cleaner is made with all-natural ingredients, it often gives me breathing problems (asthma, runny nose, etc). Even if I don't have problems, I can't taste the food as well if all I'm smelling is the cleaning products.

                1. re: janetofreno

                  Back in the day, I remember the word "macmonia" being used for the stuff the pimply faced teenager used to mop around your table whenever and wherever you sat down.

                2. Years of grocery-store experience here, and this happens far more often than some might think.

                  In a nutshell, a lot of the part-time kids either don't know better, don't think, or don't care (or all three.) No amount of training can fix them if they don't listen.
                  The managers or supervisors, in my experience, know little or nothing about the individual departments (meat, deli, hot foods, etc.) and once the kids are left on their own to close up the department for the night, they're pretty much on their own.

                  It's disheartening but i'd be willing to bet that it happens to some degree at any large supermarket. Sigh.

                  The thing to do is call the store. Chances are the powers that be will be quite mortified, apologize profusely, and next time you glance by that meat counter there might very well be a sign reminding employees to be careful with their spraying. ;)

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: Whats_For_Dinner

                    Please don't blame the part time students working in the store without any indication that one of them made this slick move in front of a customer. I trust the younger, more energetic folk far more than most of the people working for the grocery store on a full time basis.

                    1. re: Kater

                      You're right, of course. Quite a big, and stereotypical, conclusion that I jumped to there.

                      I've seen lax, lazy, half-assed meat dept. employees of all ages, that's for sure, and I've known a few kids who were far more trustworthy than some adults. In my experience, though, the kids are the ones who are far more likely to say "Hey, I'm not working again until Tuesday, so I won't have to deal with [outcome of sloppiness.]"

                      It was wrong of me to generalize, though, definitely.

                  2. If it really bothers you call the health department and explain what happened at the store/location etc.
                    Talking to the manager many times stops the problem and sometimes does nothing.
                    I know of one market, whose entire deli/bakery was shut down by the health department,, that turned out having stacks of customer/food related complaints that nobody did anything about.
                    I don't know if this is a health department related incident but it never hurts to ask questions.

                    1. I would have gotten a manager at that exact moment and shown the employee in action and watched to make sure they threw the meat in the garbage, if they tried to resell it I would have called the health department and told them what I saw!

                      I am a chef and would never eat or serve anything I knew to to be contaminated. Nor would I allow anyone else to do so.

                      1. The “Tell-the-manager-immediately” school of thought is where I fall too. And don’t think it’s just the meat counter where this happens. Having worked in the movie theatre business for years, I saw my share of Windex misted popcorn.

                        Hopefully a quiet word with a manager or supervisor would help to prevent these things in the future. Hopefully they would be concerned enough to educate their employees, but alas! it’s likely an idealistic fantasy.

                        1. It is well known that Windex contains transfats.

                          1 Reply
                          1. Pardon my cynicism, but the Windex may be the most wholesome thing in that display case.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: Kater

                              Kater, I'm surprised your response was the first of that nature. I'd rather eat Windex than the animal products from that superchain. Google CAFO.

                              1. re: AnyaTika

                                Just another reason not to buy any meat/poultry raised/grown on factory farms, not only are they raised in very inhumane conditions; but the quality of the product is affected too. Beef that is injected with antibiotics, not for sickness, but to make the animal gain weight faster, feeds made from other"animal by-products", growth hormones, and in the case of beef, feed lots where the animals are chest high in liquid manure, is not where I want my food sourced!
                                I have adjusted my purchasing of beef, pork, poultry to finding local, small producers who are proud of the way they raise, feed and process their livestock. Sometimes these operations are very small, but they are around, even close to "big metro areas". I have been successful finding eggs, from pastured chickens, meat chickens fed grains only, also pastured, naturally raised rabbits, grass fed beef that is also finished on grass, no grain fattening, and heritage pork not raised in cages but, again in pasture, Even met a guy who raises Bourbon Red Turkeys for Thanksgiving, had one last year and reordered for this year, Delicious!! Now, working on getting aged cheese (90 days) from a producer of raw milk.
                                Anyway, my point is it is out there if you have the time to do the research and investigation.

                            2. I would have gone to the manager, expressed concern and see what he/she had to say. Whether I would shop there again would probably depend upon their reaction.

                              1. yes they should clear the storage unit prior to cleaning agreed 100%

                                But if you worried about every little potential detail, where would you shop?
                                My guess is that even the best suppliers have occasional hiccups...to err is human.

                                1. I wonder if it was really windex and not foodsafe sanitizer like is used in restaurants to clean surfaces that come into contact with food.

                                  Still poor form to spray it over the meat, but better than windex I guess!

                                  1. I don't really think the point is whether it's safe to be used around food, or whether it will make you sick. The heart of the matter is that most people really don't want even non-toxic chemicals sprayed on their meat. When I buy meat, I want just the meat, thanks. If I want to season it with ammonia and citrus oil, well, I guess I can do that in my own kitchen, using the ratio of ammonia to citrus to blue coloring my family prefers. Or not.

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: Isolda

                                      If that was the only problem with factory farm produced meat; It would make me very very happy!

                                      1. re: ospreycove

                                        Sure, but why compound the problem by squirting additional unwanted chemicals on the meat?

                                    2. Back when I still bought meat at Sam's Club (when it was still of pretty good quality), twice I got meat that clearly had strong disinfectant on it - it was overwhelming when I opened the packages (not cryovacs). The second time it happened I called the health department and they were actually VERY interested to hear about it.

                                      1. I would have been turned off as well. I likely wouldn't have said anything right then but would probably call the store later. Any update? Did you call?

                                        1. In a nutshell: Regardless of how one feels about Windex or whatever, there is NO excuse for letting it get on the meat. Period.

                                          1. Do they rinse the cutting tables and other equipment in distilled water to remove all traces of the required sanitizers??? The stuff is left to air dry on the the surfaces and then, next shift, fresh meat is put on those surfaces picking up the traces of the sanitizers. Your custom un-inspected straight from the farm source of meats has a greater chance of picking up the cleaner solutions and other things than the big commercial producers. Don't sweat the small stuff!

                                            1. Even assuming a safe cleaner was used, it seems odd to me. The inside of the case should be cleaned when it is empty.

                                              Recently, I saw the meat case left open at a place I shop regularly. No one was cleaning it — it was left unattended. That doesn't seem right, either. Someone walking by could sneeze.

                                              3 Replies
                                              1. re: GH1618

                                                In our favorite meat/poultry shop in Italy, (Padova),;behind the counter, in the open, they hang the rabbits, birds, (Guinea Hens, Organic Chickens, Ducks, Quail etc.) Primal cuts of Beef and Pork are hanging in the open too. This shop is always crowded, and I'll bet a few patrons sneeze once and a while too.
                                                My point is life is not risk free so don't make yourself crazy, or "sweat the small stuff" as NVJIM stated above.

                                                1. re: ospreycove

                                                  I am not "crazy," but there are standards for sanitation in handling food which are commonly accepted, and it is not unreasonable to expect that they be followed. Raw meat, poultry, and seafood are always kept behind glass in a cooler in the US, unless wrapped.

                                                  When in Rome, be sure to cook all fresh meat adequately.

                                                  1. re: ospreycove

                                                    Sneezing isn't a big deal. You just cook the meat and that's that. But spraying chemicals on or near it? That's another matter entirely. I can see why the OP was grossed out by that.