|People shop at a groceries corner in Homeplus in Seoul in this 2019 file photo. / Yonhap|
By Kim Jae-heun
Local retailers are becoming anxious over possible massive food spoilage as the country is forecasted to suffer one of the hottest summers in year.
Worries are arising as firms are eagerly trying to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, especially offline supermarkets. Retailers are now on alert to better protect their fresh produce from spoiling and this is an even bigger problem for e-commerce firms as they are responsible for the delivery of the products.
The average afternoon temperature in the southern part of the country this week reached 30 degrees Celsius, indicating summer is just around the corner.
Department stores are paying extra attention to monitor for potential hygiene issues in fresh produce sections, particularly regarding grocery utensils and staff hygiene amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Kitchen knives and cutting boards used for preparing food are classified as special-care items that need to be washed every two hours," a Lotte Shopping official said.
Lotte Mart and Lotte Super will not sell ready-made side dishes that can easily spoil, such as spicy marinated crab meat and steamed cockles.
They will not use frozen salmon for sushi and salad at the supermarkets. Fruit, instead of using plastic wrap, will be kept in zipper bags or plastic containers.
"For perishable foods like sashimi, instant soybean curd and shellfish, we sell them within 24 hours after they have been put out for sale," a Lotte official said. "This will continue through late September."
Insects that become active during the hot summer, such as the Indian meal moth (Plodia interpunctella), are another problem. This particular moth has a jaw strong enough to bite through plastic wrap or even plastic containers and can contaminate contained food items.
Food and snack company Orion Food will provide free pheromone traps to small- and medium-sized supermarkets in Seoul and Gyeonggi Province to help keep insects at bay.
It also installed air conditioners at 27 warehouses across the country to keep products like jelly, chocolate and confectionary pies fresh.
"After we provided pheromone traps last year, customer complaints related to harmful insects have declined by 40 percent. We are receiving positive feedback from supermarket owners that the traps protect not only snacks but also instant noodle products and cereals there," an Orion Food official said.