A Woolworths store has been called out over "hygiene concerns" after a shopper claimed she found "black mould" growing in the dairy fridge coupled with out-of-date products on shelves.
"Just wondering if anyone else has hygiene concerns about Woolworths Rozelle Metro?" she asked in a local group online. "Black mould on the shelves, constantly selling expired dairy/poultry products — have already reported this but has anyone else experienced similar?"
Mould expert Dr Cameron Jones told Yahoo News Australia that while it's "not possible to identify" exactly what species of mould it is from the photos, it can be confirmed the "deposits all over the fridge rails is mould".
Normal environmental moulds are known to be able to cause health problems, particularly in sensitive people and the immunocompromised.
After reaching out to Woolworths for comment, a spokesperson has told Yahoo they "take food safety very seriously" and are "disappointed to see these reports".
"We will be investigating them with the store as a matter of priority. The fridge has now been thoroughly cleaned and we apologise to our customers for this experience."
Shoppers 'reported' Woolies store 'several times'
After seeing the photos of the mould, many responded that they too had made similar observations at Woolies in Rozelle.
"It's disgusting! I have reported it several times to the staff/management in store. I have also written to their head office!" one exclaimed.
"I have noticed a big decline in Rozelle Metro. I have stopped shopping there so much and I have been a daily shopper in the past. Lots of empty shelves. Veges often poor quality. A lot of stock not on the shelves. Often no one available at front desk," another said. One person even claimed they had "food poisoning" after shopping at the store.
Can mould in fridges be dangerous?
The mould seen in the images is likely to be normal environmental moulds like Aspergillus, Penicillium and Cladosporium and Black yeasts, according to Jones. All of which can cause "respiratory distress in sensitive individuals and the immunocompromised".
"All mould, especially when it becomes visible, can easily become airborne and can then be inhaled or become a dermal contact hazard." If the mould comes in contact with other foodstuffs it could also cause "cross-contamination".
As well as these risks, Jones reveals certain moulds and yeasts are adapted to grow at low temperatures such as "the black yeasts like Exophiala sp or Aureobasidium sp" which thrive in extreme environments like fridges. These particular moulds and yeasts can cause infections called "subcutaneous mycoses" which are fungal infections that affect the skin, hair, and nails.
"Black yeast infections have the potential to develop into chronic and, in certain instances, severe conditions, especially among those with compromised immune systems."
Expert reveals how to clean and prevent mould
In this situation, Jones shares it's likely the moisture that builds up inside the fridge over time is leading to mould forming. "Over time, mould is a natural consequence of elevated moisture."
To prevent the build-up from occurring he explains the inside should be cleaned using regular steam disinfection of the internal areas, then followed by cleaning with a sporicidal disinfectant.
"This fridge should have a temperature maintenance log and a cleaning schedule that should be updated and monitored for compliance."
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