Supermarket Hygiene a Growing Concern

December 14, 2020

The cleanliness of retail space can significantly affect customer experience. Consumer behaviour has changed over the years. Now, consumers look for retailers that go beyond the product and instead offer a whole shopping experience – providing an almost feel-good-factor that consumers want when shopping.

When consumers are happy with their experiences in the store, they are more likely to recommend them to others. Keeping a good customer base however, is not always about marketing to the right audience or getting good brands. Store cleanliness plays a significant role.

Importance of cleanliness and hygiene in supermarkets

Cleanliness affects the entire shopping process. Consumers prefer a cleaner retail store over adirty one. First impressions are developed the moment consumers walk through the doors of asupermarket, and sometimes before that. An overall tidy store can be the inciting element thatgets the shopping process moving. An unclean establishment can make people feel uneasy and put their wellbeing at risk.

When consumers do not feel comfortable, they are likely going toleave the place in a short amount of time. Cleanliness and good hygiene also foster good food safety practices. The need to provide safeand healthy food in stores or supermarkets is one that cannot be over emphasized. It should be considered a top priority in every grocery store or supermarket where consumers frequentlyshop. Unkempt supermarkets or stores can be havens for various kinds of bacteria that canlead to health problems.

Cleanliness and Hygiene Challenges in Fiji’s supermarkets

The Consumer Council of Fiji conducted a survey to further investigate the complaints received on supermarket cleanliness in September, 2020 and compared the results of this research to a similar survey conducted in 2019. The research found that whilst some supermarkets are providing a very clean environment to their shoppers, hygiene and cleanliness issues are still prevalent in certain supermarkets resulting in an increase in number of complaints received.

Common issues found to be prevalent in Fiji’s supermarkets include:

  • Poor building conditions
  • Rodents found near food displays
  • Dusty shelves and dirty floors
  • Foul smell emanating from the store
  • Poor hygiene practices.
  • Presence of rubbish.

The law In Fiji

Food establishments is defined as any operation or any business entity that stores,prepares, packages, serves, vends or provides food for consumption and includes food processing establishments or delivery service. This includes supermarkets. It is imperative therefore that businesses carefully administer requirements as stipulated in the law. General requirements on good hygiene practices for all food establishments as stipulated under Section 1 of the Fourth Schedule of the Food Safety Regulations 2009 include:

(1) Premises shall be located, designed and constructed in a manner that is not likely tocontaminate food and that prevents pest and animal access and harbourage.

(2) Premises shall be in good repair and condition.

(3) Premises, utensils and equipment shall be kept clean.

(4) Adequate facilities shall be available to maintain personal hygiene.

(5) An adequate supply of safe water shall be available wherever water or ice is required forfood business operations.

(6) Adequate facilities shall be available to hygienically store and dispose of waste.

(7) Facilities shall be adequate to ensure proper temperature control of food, where required.

The Consumer Council of Fiji continues to work with the Ministry of Health’s Food Unit and Municipal Councils to conduct surveillances in supermarkets across the country.

What can businesses do?

When a supermarket can convince its customers that it is genuinely clean, that becomes the real victory. Many consumers are skeptical about cleanliness, especially behind the scene swhere customers are not allowed. The following qualities could provide advantageous for businesses and beneficial for consumers:

Spotless entries: Keeping sidewalks outside venues free of stains, cigarette butts, gum residue and other signs of grit. Stores dedicated to cleanliness regularly power washtheir sidewalks.

Sanitizers: Hand sanitizers in the vestibule and germ-prone areas such as the mea tsection reflect a concern for cleanliness. Some stores offer sanitary wipes for cart handles.

Gleaming floors: Polished concrete in its natural, light gray color is replacing tan and brown colored floors that look messy as their colors fade. Dedicated retailers wash and buff their floors daily.

Restrooms: Newer designs have bright lighting, multiple stalls, air fresheners andbetter accessibility. Dedicated stores inspect restrooms several times an hour.

Quick spill cleanup: Porters responsible for spotting and mopping up messes should be roaming the store regularly.

Good staff hygiene: Staff employ good hygiene practices by ensuring they wear gloves and hair nets when handling food and ensuring their work spaces are clean at all times.

What can consumers do?

Understanding that cleanliness in stores sets a great first impression, consumers can play a vitalrole in ensuring this is practiced by businesses. Consumers must also ensure that they are notadding to the problem by improperly discarding rubbish in the supermarket, leaving frozenproducts on shelves, spilling beverages and spitting. Should consumers face an issue whileshopping they can:

Raise the issue with store managers – sometimes issues such as spills can be easily rectified. You will find that many supermarkets can be accommodating with regards to rectifying consumer concerns.

Alert the Food Unit of Municipal Councils – as the regulatory authority, the unit arein a position to issue abatement or condemnation notices to businesses.

• Alert the Council – a greater collective voice is crucial in highlighting the need for better hygiene and cleanliness standards in stores or supermarkets. Consumers can reach the Council via the toll-free helpline 155 or can lodge complaints via the Consumer Council of Fiji App. Alternatively they can email complaints@consumersfiji.org


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