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SafeFood© at the Pool

Is it true – can a person get sick from taking a dip at the community swimming pool? Well – yeah. People have gotten sick after swimming because other swimmers have urinated or defecated in the pool (scarily, a recent survey cited in a Parade magazine article reported one in five people admitted to sometimes doing so! Granted, this is not scientific but it is still an eye opener).

Sure, no one intentionally drinks pool water. But, it does happen – and when it does, contaminated water has entered a person’s system. Chlorine can only do so much. Hopefully your pool has a policy about swim diapers. I bet if a Certified Pool Operator (CPO) is in charge that it does. The CPO® is to pools what ServSafe® or CP-FS is to retail foodservices – an assurance that the person in charge knows the right way to maintain operations. In one study we did among Iowa pool operators, we found CPO®- run pools had more structure.

These rules extend to the locker rooms also. Restrooms should be stocked with the necessaries – e.g. toilet paper, running water and soap to wash hands– and should be kept clean. As a former lifeguard, I used to grumble about having “skilled labor” (that would be me) clean the locker rooms. And, as you might suspect, I didn’t give this task the attention it deserved.

Fast-forward 30 years (literally, time has gone quickly) and here I am the one complaining to guards that there is no soap in the locker room. Am I being too fussy? I don’t think so. The pool is busily selling food items at the concession stand (the healthiness of snacks deserves its own posting – stay tuned).

Bottom line: Where there is food, there must be soap and water for handwashing.

posted by Catherine Strohbehn, PhD, RD, CP-FS, swimmer and Mom