HOME > Chowhound > General Topics >


Sanitation of items in "bulk food" section of the market?

Do you ever buy foodstuffs from the "bulk food" containers in the market. You know the big tubs with the hinged lid and a scoop and things like cereal, malted milk balls, etc. My sister who is a germaphobe (sp?) absolutely won't touch stuff in those containers. She's told me so many horror stories of things she's witnessed, now I'm a convert to "the dark side."

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Yes, but note that cockroaches are not a vector for any human disease.

    1. I tire of germophobes.Do they really think they live in a sterile little bubble surrounded by filth and disease? WRONG.

      1. I meant to add that I don't have any qualms about buying food from the bulk bins. When did this delicate-flower germophobia trend begin, anyway?

        1. I've seen people with dirty finger nails using their hands to pick food directly from the bulk bins - stuff like trail mix and seasoned nuts/pretzels - and eat it. So the only stuff I buy from the bins is stuff you can't eat out of hand, and that will be rinsed or cooked at high temperatures.

          1. related discussion from a while back:

            it skeeves me out when people stick their hands directly into those bins...and i see it ALL the time. i tend to limit my bulk purchases to the gravity-assisted bins unless, as dump123456789 said, it's something that will be rinsed and cooked. i'm not a germophobe per se, but i'd rather not eat something that's been pawed by numerous strangers whose hands were also wrapped around cart & basket handles.

            4 Replies
            1. re: goodhealthgourmet

              That's why I don't try the free samples in the grocery stores, unless they are being served by an employee wearing gloves. Most of the time, they don't interest me, but when they do, I want my samples served hygienically.

              1. re: Isolda

                dirty gloves are as bad as dirty hands.

                1. re: Maximilien

                  Exactly. Just having a food server put a glove on their hand doesn't insure that the gloved hand won't them be put in the person's mouth, or wiped across their nose, or used to touch a filthy floor and then continued to be used to serve food.

                  There are some people who claim that food servers tend to employ less hygenic practices when wearing gloves because they feel that since they have the glove on, they can touch anything at anytime.

                  As for food samples in stores, I never touch them because they're generally sitting out on a low table where everyone sticks their fingers in or them, including snotty nosed kids.

                  1. re: taos

                    Food service gloves also tend to get reused because they are easy to take off and put back on. But in between uses, watch where people put them, on dirty counters, in pockets, etc. Also watch how people handle the gloves, for example after handling money does the user touch the portions of the glove that also touch food?

                    Boudin's Fisherman's Wharf location in San Francisco has a big window where spectators can watch the baker from the outside and also speak to the baker through an intercom. They make bread into the various shapes such as crabs and teddy bears. One spectator asked about gloves since the baker wasn't wearing any and she said that gloves aren't necessarily more hygienic except in appearance for the same reasons stated here.

            2. If my nut-allergic son will be eating it, then I don't buy bulk foods. I'm more worried about cross contamination with nut products.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Isolda

                i was actually going to comment on that - even when people use tongs or scoops they often don't think twice about using the same ones for various bins.

                sidebar: the self-serve Red Mango frozen yogurt shop in our town recently removed Reese's PB cups from their topping options after parents complained about the dangers of cross-contamination for kids with peanut allergies. i told the store manager it was a pointless move considering that they still offered Butterfinger! a week later the PB cups were back. no kid with life-threatening allergies should be eating anything from such an uncontrolled environment anyway.

              2. There probably is some degree of risk but I just can't get worked up about it. :-)

                1 Reply
                1. re: UTgal

                  Exactly. Though if the bin looks dirty/picked through I'll go with something else.

                2. I am usually alright with "some risk." My sister has already lectured me about getting food from these fruit vendors with carts who chop up the fruit and veggies who put them into a plastic baggie and sprinkle on (optionally) salt and chili powder. Or the taco truck dangers, but that never deterred me from either type of business. The stories about the bulk bins are a whole new level of "terror." I think you can imagine. The multiplicity of hands in those bulk bins has stopped me. If you're cool with it. Carry on. I just wanted a sampling of opinions. Thanks to those who replied.

                  1. It seems like the bin thing has gone to a more spout thing in our area. One can't physically get one's hands into the container, here is a spout that opens that pours the product into the bag below.
                    Saying that, I rarely buy from them.
                    I also don't think it's about being a "delicate-flower," either. I don't like knowing that there are people that have who-knows-what on their hands, from excrement to boogers. yuck. If not wanting their fingers in my mouth is being too delicate, then so be it.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: wyogal

                      wyogal, I like the spout idea. I'll be on the lookout for those and won't tell my sister. I'm sure she'll have a gripe :-)

                    2. I've seen far too many kids reach in, dig around and grab a handful. I've seen children bite/lick food and put it back. I'm not a germaphobe really, or maybe I am because I don't want to eat that and think parents shouldn't allow that. I generally don't want those types of foods anyway--it's generally cheap candy that doesn't taste good. I like those bulk bins where you pull the lever and the food drops down better.