Woolworths Cooked Chickens, now with free cross contamination

In the past few weeks we’ve noticed the staff behind the deli counter at our local Woolies bagging the cooked chickens by dipping their bare-naked hands into the bags in order to open them enough so they can then slip a cooked chicken in, which is handled with tongs. On both occasions we have confronted staff about this and on both occasions a staff member has gone out of their way to make us look like dickheads for even thinking it’s unhygienic that they’re not wearing gloves while they place their entire hand inside each bag.

These people work at the deli counter, so for all we know they could have come into contact with raw chicken or fish or some other raw meat based products? Wiping their hands all around the inside of the chook bags before putting a cooked chook in the things is screaming with cross contamination possibilities.

We’ve contacted Woolies via social media who assure us that all staff handling food must wear gloves and that they’ve notified the store manager, yet here we are again today made to look like idiots again for bringing it to the attention of the person who was doing the same thing we caught someone else doing a few weeks back.

The Tassie health dept has since been contacted by us and we hope they can get Woolies to educate their staff better before they do finally cause someone to get a bad dose of food poisoning.

So next time you’re in Woolies, or anywhere that sells bagged cooked chickens, have a look to see if the person wiping his or her dirty hands all around the inside of the bag is wearing gloves or not. If not, drop the details here and we’ll see how many places actually don’t teach and police their staff on basic food safety practices.


I don’t think there is ‘so for all we know’ about it - I think you are fairly safe in assuming it !! That’s the whole reason they are supposed to wear gloves, defence in depth as it were :slight_smile:

I’ve picked them up on ‘fresh’ stuff in the deli also. I just wait until they have completely packaged it and ask them to do it again pointing out the item they dropped into another section or the lack of gloves - only once have I had to leave a package on the counter and walk away. Reporting them doesn’t seem to do much - I think the manager plays golf with the food inspector - the smaller the town, the worse things are … can’t afford to upset anyone …


Gloves are not a panacea for your worries Vince. I expect cross contamination can happen about equally with bare hands or using the same gloves for both duties if they just go from one to the other, although hands do have far more wrinkles and crevices to attract sticky bits.

The gold standard is probably both of hand washing and changing gloves every time the duty changes, but what are the chances because that is both a financial and cultural change to overcome for some workers and some shops.

Keep watching, and good call @NubglummerySnr


I was speaking to one of the admins on The Vigilante News Facebook page about it and they said they recently were told of an instance where one deli worker was observed over the Easter weekend going directly from the seafood to the raw chicken and then the cooked chickens. It may cost more to have to change gloves, but it’s no excuse for playing Russian Roulette with their customer’s health. We have a local butcher/chicken shop which makes sure their staff always change gloves between different types of items. They seem to be thriving regardless of the price of the disposable single use gloves they go through.


I suggest it is not down to cost, but laziness of the staff involved (and potentially supervision by the particular store management). It may be tiring to keep changing gloves every time different food is handled.


Well, so much for the staff just about daring us to contact the health dept. and thinking nothing will come of it. They’re now under investigation with a representative of the local health dept getting further details from us yesterday, including the times and dates we witnessed the offences occurring. Not only do the staff members face the possibility of copping a fine for breaching food safety laws, but Woolies itself is breaching the laws by not ensuring that their staff are trained and complying with the food handling laws, which also includes a section that says their skin is not to come into contact with any surface that food will be coming into contact with, which in this case means the inside of the hot chook bags.


Good effort on your part and I really do hope the Health Dept follow through.


Here’s the final response from the local health dept. after they’d gotten a few extra details from us.

Hi Vince

Thank you for providing this additional information.

Please be advised that Council has conducted an inspection of Woolworths Claremont. While specifics of the investigation cannot be provided, Council is satisfied that Woolworths have taken appropriate steps to prevent this practices from occurring in the future.

However, should you witness a re-appearance of this practice I would encourage you to speak with the store manager at the time it is observed and to contact Council to follow up.

Kind regards
Environmental Health Officer

Anyways, we’ve discovered a Coles not far from here that has fresher fresh food than the wilted, half dead stuff we usually get from The Fresh Food People and deli staff who seem to know how to handle food properly. Plus they stock all the things we used to get before Woolies decided to discontinue them. No idea how Woolies management works, but if something sells really well it’s usually on the clearence shelf within a few months. How do we know these items were selling well? Because they were consistently being restocked. We have quite a few lousy Coles here in Tassie as well, but the one we’ve found is an exception to the norm.


Best idea is to use the tongs (clean long ones) to open the bag with,gloves get dirty too unless they use the single use type…


Our Woollies use the plastic bag as a temporary glove to pick up raw chicken. The outside of the bag becomes the inside of the bag when it is filled to the customer’s needs. This ensures that any contamination stays in the bag and not on ones hands/other surfaces or utensils.


They still should be using gloves though. They have to grab the bag via the outside surface which then becomes the inside surface with the chicken touching it. Still a chance of microby things getting transferred from hand to meat.


Au contrarie. Have a watch how that works. :wink:

You will see that they are holding one side (call it the inside or outside, makes no difference) of the bag and the chicken is only ever touched by ‘the other’ side. If you have a storage bag or glove you can try it.

A bit simplistic description here, but hold the bag in one hand and pick up something, then put your free hand on your wrist and push the open end of the bag off your hand while turning the bag inside out around what you picked up.

Some will use gloves as you indicate, but I have seen ‘contraptions’ that pre-open the bags so you can put your hand in and that becomes a one step process.


I would rather someone’s clean hands than dirty gloves! So the factory where the gloves are made and packed. Who checks that? The dirty hand that goes into the glove having handled the glove to put it on? The glove is no protection. Why do you think doctors scrub up for so long Then put the gloves on? The gloved hand being wiped under someone’s nose because the bother of degloving is too much when under pressure. When your hands are dirty you wash them naturally because they feel gross. When your gloves are dirty you feel nothing and leave them on all day. Gloves are for the protection of the wearer not the thing being touched. Be more worried about the sink being dry and never seeing the tap turned on. Bacteria is killed by heat so if your chicken is over 60° it can be assumed that the bacteria is no longer active. I naturally wash my hands many times while cutting up chicken at home because it feels gross. All these food items left out in the open cut up and exposed to oxygen where bacteria multiply are more of a risk than clean hands. It’s temperature and exposure to oxygen that are the real risks. If you want to make a point, ask your deli worker to take of their gloves wash their hands in warm water and soap and then bag your chicken, fish whatever. It’s going to be cooked unless you are a raw food or sashimi consumer, everything you ask these companies to do costs money for what actual benefit for your health? Better to spend the money on soap and water than smelly gloves wafting around all day pretending hygiene.

They have to grab the bag first, which involves the outside, then they put their hands in the bag and the food makes contact with the outside of the bag, which has already been held while they picked the thing up.


Pretty sure these people mis-handling the food with their bare skin haven’t spent a good five minutes scrubbing like a surgeon using a surgically recommended soap. They just don’t care enough to go to the effort.


With Doctors the glove is the primary barrier for both the surgeon and the patient to prevent cross contamination, but gloves do fail and can be punctured during operations and a small number of pathogens do get on gloves. This is why they spend so much time scrubbing up, it is mostly in case of failure of the gloves.

From the NCBI (National Center for Biotechnology Information) website "The introduction of sterile gloves does not render surgical hand preparation unnecessary. Sterile gloves contribute to preventing surgical site contamination and reduce the risk of bloodborne pathogen transmission from patients to the surgical team. However, 18% (range: 5–82%) of gloves have tiny punctures after surgery, and more than 80% of cases go unnoticed by the surgeon. After two hours of surgery, 35% of all gloves demonstrate puncture, thus allowing water (hence also body fluids) to penetrate the gloves without using pressure. A recent trial demonstrated that punctured gloves double the risk of SSIs.


Surgical hand preparation should reduce the release of skin bacteria from the hands of the surgical team for the duration of the procedure in case of an unnoticed puncture of the surgical glove releasing bacteria to the open wound."

Do I trust the gloves of the workers while handling chickens (with sometimes protruding broken bones), no not entirely but gloves and bag together reduce the risk substantially as you point out. Also in the NCBI article it wasn’t the only reason they scrub so much but because they have seen cross contamination even with still unused/sterile/unpunctured gloves. So best practice in a Supermarket should be wash hands and/or sterilse with alcohol, then glove, then bag, then dispose of those gloves, wash/sterilse hands then re glove with new pair for next process and so on. I doubt they do much of this because for a Supermarket time is money and so many may/will take the risk of contamination over the cost to their profits.


A mea culpa that the OT is about cooked chicken bags, then @phb referenced raw chicken (etc) bags, and there I went.


Disposable gloves are no different. I just spent about 5 minutes of my time…which I won’t get back…seeing if I could put on a pair of disposable gloves without touching any part of the gloves outside. I am not sure if it can practically done.[quote=“TheBBG, post:17, topic:15344”]
referenced raw chicken

Yes…I went off track…near us they open the bag with their hands and use either tongs or a plastic bag to pick up the cooked chook.

I have no problems with this as the cooked chook shoukd still be at a temperature to kill any fugitive bacteria/fungus which may have entered the bag on ones hands (assuming a glove in fact is cleaner). Don’t forget that the air we breathe has thousands of cfu per cubic metre as well. So if there wasn’t introduced by the hands, there will be things introduced from the air on opening of the bag.


The touching of the gloves with bare hands should be proceeded by the washing and or sterilising with alcohol of the hands, this should have reduced the number of pathogens to an acceptable level. There are disposable gloves that come on sheets to allow the insertion of hands without the touching of the outside of the gloves but these are mostly used in the medical situation rather than a supermarket :slight_smile:

Why aren’t they using face masks when dealing with food products? Maybe a Health and Food Safety standard that should be introduced/enforced. When I worked in Meatworks the wearing of face masks was encouraged but not enforced but perhaps should have been.

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To effectively remove pathogens, hand washing would take time. The hospital envirinment is also quite different to food hygiene as the human body has adapted to deal with foods which contain some pathogens. When these pathogens exceed a threshold, then they can cause disease.

In a hospital, there are many patients with suppressed immune systems or have injuries which can be readily infected with poor hygiene. Quite different to Woollies.

The other consideration is if I see someone wearing gloves at the deli part of a supermarket, my initial thought is they have been touching raw chicken. I would be concerned if I saw a gloved hand enter a cooked chicken bag, unless I saw the attendant replace the gloves immediately before bagging the chook.