Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create a free account.

Supermarket Tongs for Bread, etc.


Sherry B
 Share

Recommended Posts

The "Double Dipping" thread got me thinking of this. Occasionally I'll buy buns or bagels from the bulk section of supermarkets.

One store in particular has aggressive signs everywhere..."Use the Tongs". But here's the thing. If I use the tongs, I'm not going to be contaminating the buns, but I'm damned if I'm going to use tongs that someone else has been handling, therebye contaminating my own hands....particularly when the tongs usually look really filthy.

This to me is similar to the mania for foodservice staff wearing gloves. It gives a false perception of cleanliness, even if they keep the gloves on for hours.

I just reach in and grab my own damned buns. I don't fondle every bun in the bin....I just snatch the ones I want with my hands, thinking it's the lesser of two evils. No doubt I'll be marched out of the store one day, but I've been ever so tempted to take a swab from those tongs, and write me a little expose......

Link to comment
Share on other sites

After watching a little kid with a snotty nose fondle all the bread in the bulk section of a store, I stopped buying bulk buns, unless I see the staff putting them in the bins (i.e. unless they're fresh from the oven).

Except at bakeries in Japan. I won't eat from the unstaffed tasting stations at the Costco here, though. Or at any other unstaffed tasting stations. I've seen people do too many gross things, even in Japan.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I just reach in and grab my own damned buns. I don't fondle every bun in the bin....I just snatch the ones I want with my hands, thinking it's the lesser of two evils. No doubt I'll be marched out of the store one day, but I've been ever so tempted to take a swab from those tongs, and write me a little expose......

This, and prasantrin's reply, is precisely the reason I don't purchase bulk anything or, for that matter, eat at buffets.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

After watching a little kid with a snotty nose fondle all the bread in the bulk section of a store, I stopped buying bulk buns, unless I see the staff putting them in the bins (i.e. unless they're fresh from the oven).

Naive me. When I first started shopping years ago, I always used the tongs or turned the bag inside out to pick the bread from the bins. I thought any sane person did. Then I started noticing it, and have now seen it a million times: people who fondle every piece of bread with their hands before they pick out their two rolls. I have actually yelled at people for doing this, but this happens at the International markets where not many people speak English, and those that do have no clue why I am upset. And parents who let their kids grab bread, run around the store with it, and then instead of buying the bread they make their kids put it back in the bin where they got it. And some poor fool is going to take that home and eat it.

Keep the rolls behind a counter. These open bins are how colds and the flu -- and worse things than that -- get spread around. Keep your germs to yourself please.

Oh and it's not just the bread bins. How about those candy bins at the supermarket. Parents happily let their kids stick their grubby little hands in there too. I'll also take a pass from the community salad bar, which usually has someone's hair in it, and on most buffets.

Edited by Batard (log)

"There's nothing like a pork belly to steady the nerves."

Fergus Henderson

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'm a good shopping citizen -- I use the tongs or the wax paper or the plastic bag. Then I forget about it. Otherwise, that way madness lies. (I knew a woman who would flush the toilet in public loos with her elbow, even though she scrubbed like a surgeon post pee.)

What about the baker with a cold who coughs all over the rolls back in the bakery? What about the cooks in good restaurants, not buffets or food courts, who are encouraged to work sick short of typhus or a heart attack? How scrupulously did the receptionist scrub those apples in the pretty basket at the dentist office?

Margaret McArthur

"Take it easy, but take it."

Studs Terkel

1912-2008

A sensational tennis blog from freakyfrites

margaretmcarthur.com

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Unless you've got a compromised immune system I see no reason to act like everything at the grocery store will give you the plague. The reason to use tongs or the scoop when buying stuff in bulk is purely for convenience as far as I'm concerned. It's hugely inefficient to shovel oats into a bag using your bare hand. Pickles are best retrieved with tongs rather than getting pickle juice on your arm.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I agree with using the tongs for convenience. As to open bins, I think you just have to assume that many hands may have been rummaging around in them. There are, however, some items that I dislike using the tongs for- beansprouts- what?!? The barely manuverable tongs they put out just squash the sprouts. Also with crusty Vietnamese baguettes, the tongs seem to slide around on the bread and it is much simpler to grab your item without touching others of course.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Unless you've got a compromised immune system I see no reason to act like everything at the grocery store will give you the plague.  The reason to use tongs or the scoop when buying stuff in bulk is purely for convenience as far as I'm concerned.  It's hugely inefficient to shovel oats into a bag using your bare hand.  Pickles are best retrieved with tongs rather than getting pickle juice on your arm.

:smile:

that which does not kill you makes you stronger.

Jeff Meeker, aka "jsmeeker"

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Unless you've got a compromised immune system I see no reason to act like everything at the grocery store will give you the plague.  The reason to use tongs or the scoop when buying stuff in bulk is purely for convenience as far as I'm concerned.  It's hugely inefficient to shovel oats into a bag using your bare hand.  Pickles are best retrieved with tongs rather than getting pickle juice on your arm.

:smile:

that which does not kill you makes you stronger.

In general I agree, though I'm not clear how pickle-juice-arm can make me stronger so I've avoided it so far.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I have silly logic ..in big markets that have tons folks I tend to avoid bulk items ..open bread ..and worry more about snotty fingers on my food

in tiny shops I dont worry ..I am sure there is the same issue but on an obviously smaller level in my strange mind ..I use tongs...then wash my hands before I eat or put anything near my face (always that just makes sense during cold and flu season especially!) ..or an inside out bag or the wax paper...

I never touch public door knobs with my hands however (unless I have to) I am neurotic about that and will always either let someone open the door for me or use my elbows ..a paper towel or something ....

why am I always at the bottom and why is everything so high? 

why must there be so little me and so much sky?

Piglet 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I don't mind as much someone carefully grabbing a couple rolls with their hands, it's the rummaging that bothers me.

Two issues:

1) I think your much more likely to get a cold from the people rummaging than the maybe sick baker as there are many people rummaging which increases the odds of one of them being ill, compared to one or two bakers.

2) As someone mentioned in the double dip thread it's an issue of personal space. I could go around the supermarket fondling people's genetalia and no one would get a cold or die. But the type of people do that or fondle the buns are never the people you really want to be doing so.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

this board made me realize I was one big neurotic hypocrite!

I totally could care less if someone double dips but I freak out about door knobs ...

and servers touching the rim of my glass...

I dont care if you grab your bread and pull it out at all however ...in a small market ..but in a big grocery I would never buy loose bread or anything just about and never mind I do not eat samples!

not sure I ever wanted to identify much less "out" my neurosis

I came here because I love food!!!

Edited by hummingbirdkiss (log)
why am I always at the bottom and why is everything so high? 

why must there be so little me and so much sky?

Piglet 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

1) I think your much more likely to get a cold from the people rummaging than the maybe sick baker as there are many people rummaging which increases the odds of one of them being ill, compared to one or two bakers.

Where I live, bakers wear masks over their mouths, so the likelihood of a baker hacking saliva all over my baked goods is slim.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I could go around the supermarket fondling people's genetalia and no one would get a cold or die.  But the type of people do that or fondle the buns are never the people you really want to be doing so.

Hehe, you said "buns". :raz:

"I know it's the bugs, that's what cheese is. Gone off milk with bugs and mould - that's why it tastes so good. Cows and bugs together have a good deal going down."

- Gareth Blackstock (Lenny Henry), Chef!

eG Ethics Signatory

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I could go around the supermarket fondling people's genetalia and no one would get a cold or die.

This would make the mundane task of supermarket shopping much more pleasant. :blink:

For which person? :rolleyes:

"Fat is money." (Per a cracklings maker shown on Dirty Jobs.)
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Well, I've told these stories before, but I'll tell them again here.

There's a small local restaurant that I really like. The owner and staff are really friendly, and it's their habit to greet and shake the hands of every customer who enters. Then, with the hand that just shook somebody's hand off the street, they go to the pass, pick up your plate of food, and serve it to you. I can't think of a more unsanitary thing to do.

Another one: I was on line at a hot-dog wagon, and in front of me was a kid bouncing a basketball in the gutter, where there was all the filth and stagnant water that you'd expect flowing on its way to a sewer grate. When he made it to the front of the line, he took one hand, reached into his pocket, and paid the hot dog vendor, who took the money, made change, and then went right on to pick the next persons buns out of the bag with that same hand - no gloves, no tissue. I got off the line.

I think there's a lot of unsanitary food handling around. Of course, we can't see the baker with a cold, just as we can't know who was in an elevator before us with the flu who had sneezed on his hands and then pressed a button. But common sense tells me to wash my hands after I touch something like an elevator button or doorknob that lots of other people have touched - especially in cold and flu season. I don't go living in an environment so sanitized that I'm not exposed to any germs, but I also don't go actively looking for trouble.

I don't eat food from bins that other people have rummaged through. But if I use a scoop or tongs that a lot of people have touched to reach food items that are otherwise safe, I do remember to wash my hands before eating, or touching them to my face.

Overheard at the Zabar’s prepared food counter in the 1970’s:

Woman (noticing a large bowl of cut fruit): “How much is the fruit salad?”

Counterman: “Three-ninety-eight a pound.”

Woman (incredulous, and loud): “THREE-NINETY EIGHT A POUND ????”

Counterman: “Who’s going to sit and cut fruit all day, lady… YOU?”

Newly updated: my online food photo extravaganza; cook-in/eat-out and photos from the 70's

Link to comment
Share on other sites

A few people have mentioned that if you have a strong immune system you'll be okay. Now, I'm not in favor of being too obsessive about germs, which is where our society is right now, but we have to remember that germs are not our friends, and that there are worse things out there all the time--the germs and bacteria are getting smarter, so to speak, because we're killing all the weak ones.

I stopped buying things in bulk when I saw a little kid running his hand through the unwrapped candy at a store. How can people just let their kids run free in the bulk section? But they do. Ignoring the problem doesn't really help. What you don't know CAN hurt you.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

From living in Philly, a place that can be pretty humid during the non winter months, I've learned that the only thing grosser than people using their bare hands in the bread bins are seeing swarms of those tiny black flies hanging out in the bread bins.

There's one place in particular, which is supposed to be more up-scale has their artisan bread behind the counter, shielded by plexiglass, and I've watched flies the size of peanut m&ms bopping into things left and right.

Sadly, I'm at the point where I either make my own rolls or buy them prepackaged because those flies really gross me out :sad:

Believe me, I tied my shoes once, and it was an overrated experience - King Jaffe Joffer, ruler of Zamunda

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Gee. And the reason I never buy rolls or bagels out of the bulk bins is concern about them sitting out there for god knows how many hours getting stale. :laugh:

Which concern may be why people go fondling them all to check that they haven't become rocks ... which as many have pointed out then brings up whole other issues.

I tend to think bulk bins worked best in the type of stores where they first evolved (or at least where I first encountered them)--hippie-alternative food coops. At the ones I've known, the members have been so invested in the store--not to mention so hyper about food health--that it felt like nobody would so much as dare to breathe near the bulk bins.

Mind you, though, I'm aware that this Utopic vision has its share of holes in it. To give just a single example, I recall a frustrated notice in the local coop's newletter from the store's manager, to the effect that the persistent anonymous pest who would take single bites from packages of cheese and then put the partly-unwrapped cheese back in the cooler was at it again, and if anyone spotted this character in action to please alert her ASAP. :wacko:

So ... I dunno. At a certain point, one picks the level of denial one feels comfortable with. :laugh:

Link to comment
Share on other sites

My point wasn't about my being "obsessive" about food safety; I'm not. It was more about the hypocrisy of a store providing tongs to protect the safety of the food from handling, but not bothering to provide clean tongs.

It's about the false perception of cleanliness.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

 Share

×
×
  • Create New...