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Grocery cart germs often worse than restroom

What you don’t see can hurt you - most grocery carts test positive for fecal matter and “deadly germs” like e.coli and salmonella. COMPTON (MNS)— With the flu season around the bend, the editors of the

What you don’t see can hurt you – most grocery carts test positive for fecal matter and “deadly germs” like e.coli and salmonella.

COMPTON (MNS)— With the flu season around the bend, the editors of the Compton Herald thought it might be a good time to remind you of one of the more common ways to come in contact with flu germs and then pass the infection on to countless others.

Many people may not be aware that supermarket grocery carts are vectors for the spread of bacteria and virulent germs.

ComptonHerald.com - University of Arizona researcher Charles Gerba

University of Arizona researcher Charles Gerba found there are more germs on grocery carts “…than you find in a supermarket’s restroom.” Photo: YouTube

This is generally unknown because shoppers take it for granted that retailers regularly clean and sanitize their carts. Not so. And one doesn’t have to conduct a bacterial scan to determine this. Simply “eyeball” shopping carts and you will see they are laden with germs merely by the presence of food stains like dried blood from meat drippings, residue from coughs, sneezes, baby drool, dried urine and feces from soiled diapers in the cart seat, as well as microscopic properties indiscernible by the naked eye.

This shocking information is not new, but findings from a 2011 University of Arizona study. Researchers tested 85 shopping carts in four states for the presence of bacteria. Over 60 of these carts tested positive for traces of fecal bacteria. Half of 36 carts subjected to further testing yielded evidence of e.coli bacteria.

“That’s more than you find in a supermarket’s restroom,” says Charles Gerba, the author of the study.

Consumers may never look at a cart quite the same way, again. Consider this: 72 percent of supermarket grocery carts test positive for fecal matter and 52 percent test positive from “deadly germs” like e.coli and salmonella. The report was enough to shock most supermarkets into sanitation policies regarding carts, hand baskets, handicap carts, food trays and other equipment.

Unfortunately, supermarket management will only clean carts when the pressure is on from media reports, and will fall into a pattern of malaise as soon as the pressure subsides.

The Herald conducted a three-month random site visit of supermarkets in Compton, Carson, and Inglewood and found that management at each of the local familiar outlets was not truthful about monthly cart cleaning and sanitizing. From May to July, the carts remained in the same condition as when first observed.

The Herald also observed shopping cart retrievers in trucks, return carts to supermarkets that had been removed — placing them directly to cart receptacles without cleaning or sanitizing of any kind.

The practice of removing carts from supermarkets is common in poorer communities where shoppers push grocery-laden carts home due to a lack of transportation. Carts are also stolen by homeless persons who use them as rolling storage containers for bottles, cans, blankets, and other items accrued over time. It’s easy to understand how these carts quickly become germ-laden.

Grocery carts that never leave the store are still subject to potentially vast sources of bacteria from sneezing, coughing, and most importantly failure to hand wash after restroom use.

ComptonHerald.com | Shopping Cart Sanitation

Some retailers where carts are used take steps to sanitize carts by employing shopping cart sanitation and pressure washing services. Photo: Illuminate Palace Power Wash Services

The cart handle, itself, is the filthiest part of the cart. The Centers for Disease Control provided a simple reason why — “People don’t wash their hands after using the restroom, whether in public or at home,” said a CDC spokesperson. “The first thing a person touches after entering a supermarket is the cart handle, thereby transferring the fecal matter from their hands to the cart.”

A couple of things are at work forcing retailers — supermarket and otherwise where carts are used — to take steps to sanitize carts by providing sanitary wipes or taking other measures. Coincidentally funding for the research by Gerba was provided by Clorox, the largest supplier of sanitizing wipes.

Editors who get hold of these top-line research stats make headlines out of them such as “Public restrooms are cleaner than your supermarket.” This makes retailers go on the defensive for a few days and order a sanitary review. All this despite the fact that, as in the words of one expert, “there may be bacteria on shopping carts but they can also be found on doorknobs, counter-tops and a host of other items we touch every day. In fact, my guess is that there are more bacteria on a car seat than on a shopping cart.”

RELATED: Ways to make grocery shopping more sanitary

Compton Herald is a digital news publication providing clear, fair and current news, information and commentary about Compton, the Los Angeles metropolitan area, Los Angeles County, California, and the world.


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