The Food Journal and Food, Nutrition & Science

An alliance between The Lempert Report and The Center for Food Integrity

Swine Flu: Keeping Shoppers Happy and Healthy

Swine Flu: Keeping Shoppers Happy and Healthy

Dietitian Dialogues

October 25, 2009

Proper nutrition and the consumption of whole foods are central to good health. Supermarkets, the main source of these important immune enhancers, are a great place to promote healthy behaviors as temperatures drop and flu season takes off. Both “swine flu” and seasonal flu updates continue to flood media headlines and our thoughts, so let’s make shopping to sustain and improve health and boost immunity a no-brainer for customers.

First Things First: Keep a Clean Store & Healthy Employees

Remember, if you want to encourage customers to stay healthy, practice what you preach; the best way to do this is to ensure that customers are not entering a bacteria-breeding zone every time they step through the doors. Promote the use of anti-bacterial hand and shopping cart handle wipes, and make sure these are readily available and displayed in cart accessible locations. Also, to ensure these are properly disposed, place small garbage bins throughout the store – make sure they are visible and cannot be tripped over.
Store employees should not be excluded from flu prevention as they are the main food handlers, and some may argue, are at greatest flu risk because they come in contact with the variety of bacteria and viruses that make their way into the store. Remind employees to continue to practice standard hygiene procedures and to increase hand washing frequency. 

It’s definitely a great time to update and maybe even create new hand washing signs in employee and public bathrooms and eating areas. Creating new signs will draw attention to the mundane but extremely important hand washing habit. Changing the location of the signs or posters and using bright colors can help make these messages impossible to ignore. Keeping stores staffed with healthy employees is as important as ensuring customer health. 
If your store has a pharmacy, it’s a great idea to make sure your pharmacist is up to date on new medications, information about flu vaccines, and the best flu prevention tips. Customers always appreciate take home leaflets with quick preventative tips; include the Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC) general flu prevention guidelines and their contact information.
Merchandise Whole Foods: Fruits and Vegetables

It is always important to promote the consumption of fruits and vegetables, and during flu season this practice is no exception! We all know that fruits and vegetables provide a multitude of health-beneficial nutrition; make it easy for customers to remember which items are currently in season. In season fruits and vegetables have most likely spent less time traveling, resulting in a fresher and healthier pick. The concentration of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and all of the other wonderful immune boosting elements are greatest when first picked, so communicate this message to consumers and offer local, fresh produce.

What’s Currently in Season?

Fall in season produce includes:

Vegetables: avocados, beans, beats, bok choy, broccoli, broccoli rabe, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery root, collards, eggplant, fennel, garlic, kale, lettuce, mushrooms, okra, pumpkin, radishes, rutabaga, snow peas, spinach, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, and winter squash.

Fruits: apples, bananas, clementines, cranberries, grapes, grapefruit, kiwi, oranges, pears, pomegranates, and tangerines.
Another great recommendation is to encourage shoppers to head to the freezer aisles for fruits and vegetables. Vital nutrients are unharmed during the freezing process, and because fruits and vegetables are packed and frozen at their time of optimal freshness (just after being picked), they are a less expensive but just as nutritious a choice as their fresh counterparts.
Don’t Forget! Promote Whole Grains

As well as being an excellent source of fiber, whole grains, as compared to refined grains, are full of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. Encourage shoppers to look for 100% whole wheat flour in the ingredients listed on nutrition facts labels. Cereals, crackers and breads made with whole grains are an overall more nutritious choice. Choosing brown and wild rice, whole grain pastas, quinoa, whole oats, spelt, buckwheat and bulgur are great nutrient dense options.

Flu Prevention Tips

The most important measure of prevention is thorough and frequent hand washing and the use of an alcohol-based hand rub if water is not available. Adequate sleep, nutrition and physical activity also ensure a healthy and resilient immune system.
For the most up-to-date flu and vaccine information, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website at

Amanda Rubizhevsky, MPH, currently writes for, SG|B2B as well as for The Lempert Report; she is also responsible for developing in-store health and nutrition educational programs for retailers. Amanda obtained her Masters Degree in Public Health Nutrition from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, with a specific focus on Vitamin D and sun exposure.


As a nutritionist working for a supermarket, you have a unique outlook on how retailers are increasing health awareness at the store level and the kind of questions that shoppers ask. Each month, we'll be featuring a guest column, written by a nutritionist, that communicates this point of view on a variety of topics. And we want to hear from you. If you are a supermarket nutritionist interested in sharing your perspective and insights, we would love to help you share your thoughts! Please contact Allison Bloom at