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Schnucks Establishes Food Safety Checkpoints for Shoppers

ST. LOUIS – Schnuck Markets has implemented a hand-sanitizing program whereby customers no longer have to put the cart before the wash.

The chain has established new sanitizing checkpoints at the cart corrals inside the entrances and at meat counters throughout its 101 supermarkets in Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, Tennessee, and Mississippi. It's the latest in a series of consumer-targeted food safety initiatives to be put in place by Schnucks.

Customers "are responding enthusiastically" to the new hand-sanitizing program, said Schnucks director of food safety Dianna Pasley. The program uses Sani-Hands II instant hand-sanitizing wipes produced by NicePak of Orangeburg, N.Y. The wipes are specially formulated to kill germs on hands, but they can be used to clean cart handles, as well.

"There is no surprise that studies show shopping carts can spread germs," Pasley said. "After all, cart handles are no different from door knobs, toys, telephones, and other such commonly handled items. This program is not meant to eliminate all germs, but it has proven effective in killing germs on hands, which will help prevent the spread of germs to handles and other surfaces."

According to Pasley, Schnucks' food safety department has tested the program for more than a year. "We considered multiple sanitizers, but the Sani-Hands product offered the safest option," she said, adding that in addition to creating a cleaner, safer environment, "The program engages our customers and associates in helping to reinforce the message that food safety is everyone's responsibility."

As one of the first grocers to offer sanitization options at multiple checkpoints, Schnucks "felt it was important to sanitize at strategic points of contact to ensure customers a safer, more germ-free environment throughout the store. It's particularly important in the meat department, where customers will come in contact with meat juices," Pasley noted.

Rick Benigno, co-manager at the Ladue Schnucks unit, said early response has been very positive. "We first installed the Sani-Hands stands over Labor Day weekend, and customers, particularly those with small children, were using them as we were setting up," while Ladue store manager Steve Potashnick said: "We used to go through quite a few paper towels. The new Sani-Hands is much more effective, and we have heard many positive comments from customers who use the kiddy carts."

Noting that children often enjoy snacks as their parents shop, which in turn leads to sticky hands and surfaces, Potashnick added, "Families appreciate our extra efforts to provide a safer environment for their children."

Pasley seconds that sentiment. "Many of our customers have become quite attached to the sanitizers in just a short amount of time," she said, observing that one wipe "significantly reduces germs on contact and slows bacteria growth."

In support of the initiative, Schnucks baggers are being trained on ways to prevent cross-contamination inside bags and into homes. "We want to assist the customers with keeping meat separate from other food items, and bagging the meat protects the conveyor belt from leaks and spills," said Pasley, noting that the precautions are particularly important when food arrives at the home and is unloaded onto tables and countertops.

"Our goal at Schnucks is to do everything we can to provide a safe shopping environment for our customers and for our associates," concluded Pasley.

--Meg Major
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