‘Free fruit for kids’ PR stunt backfires for Australian grocery chain

Woolworth’s in Australia is giving away free fruit to kids.

woolies.free.fruitThis has sparked some sort of hygiene uproar.

But it’s wrong.

As I told Elizabeth Weise of USA Today back in 2012, all washing of produce might do is “remove the snot that some 3-year-old blew onto the food at the grocery store.” Washing “lowers the pathogen count a little, but not to safe levels if it’s contaminated.”

The key to safe produce is food safety protocols – and verification – beginning on the farm through to retail, like Woolies.

But Woolies won’t talk about that, or market it, so I stay away.

Woolies’ “free fruit for kids” initiative has backfired, with shoppers complaining the basket of apples and bananas is unhygienic.

The supermarket giant announced the program in November, claiming it would “help children eat their recommended two serves of fruit a day and is part of Woolworths commitment to inspire a healthier Australia.”

But customers have raised concerns that kids often have dirty hands and encouraging them to touch and eat fruit in-store could spread worms or other infectious disease.

“It’s unhygienic,” Kathy, a customer in Surry Hills, Sydney, told news.com.au. “Parents should be responsible for feeding their kids, having foods there unmonitored is a bad idea.”

On a Reddit thread on the free fruit scheme, Svedka posted, “Seriously though, that’s how you get worms”, while another user added, “Cue fruit peels left in strange places around the store, and kids with pear-juice hands touching things.”

The plan was derided as “cheap advertising” and an effort by beleaguered Woolies to “attract families back to their stores

But other shoppers applauded the plan, with Alex McCowan telling news.com.au: “I don’t think it’s unhygienic. They have fruit sitting there anyway for people to buy and eat. It’s a good idea to get kids to eat more fruit. Food’s expensive, so it helps families.”