Did you know there is more bacteria on a shopping cart than on a public restroom toilet seat? According to several recent health warnings, swabs taken from shopping cart handles and seats have shown saliva, blood, fecal matter, mucus (and worse), plus Listeria, Salmonella, Staph, E. Coli, and general individual bacteria.
Apparently people are taking this disturbing information seriously. I have recently watched several mothers carefully arranging shopping cart covers or draping blankets over the part of the cart where the baby will be. And the woman who took the cart ahead of me took a package of wipes out of her bag and vigorously scrubbed down the whole top portion of the cart. When she was finished, she used more wipes to carefully clean each of her hands. During the same shopping trip, I also saw a baby sitting in an uncovered cart seat, constantly leaning forward to suck on the cart. His mother did not try to stop him. Obviously everyone does not share the same concerns.
My favorite shade of blue
Researchers stress that shopping cart handles are one of the most contaminated public surfaces, even dirtier than most public restrooms. The reason? Public restrooms are cleaned and disinfected regularly… grocery shopping carts are not… in fact, most stores clean their shopping carts only a couple of times each year. In the meantime, with everyone touching the cart handles and babies in diapers being put into the seats, the typical shopping cart is continuously being contaminated and accumulating a startling range of germs and viruses.
Some stores are responding by making disinfectant wipes available for customers who want them, but only one store in our area has so far taken this step. Regular baby wipes supposedly work equally well.
There is some good news… most of the original testing that is being quoted in these reports was done several years ago, and recent tests on shopping cart handles and seats have shown much lower levels of contaminants. Researchers guess that the public’s increased use of disinfectant wipes is the reason for this decline. Even so, they warn there IS still contamination, and that it is present in levels high enough to cause illness and disease.
So how do you handle this worrisome situation? For myself, I have not yet cleaned a shopping cart, although (if I had a baby) I would always spread a thick baby blanket over the part of the cart where my baby’s hands would be. Mostly I try to see that everyone follows the recommended “good hand hygiene”… keeping hands away from eyes, nose, and mouth, and always thoroughly washing hands before eating.
And I never put produce in the baby seat!