Most of us never give shopping carts a second thought, but they carry a lot more than the eye can see.
And what you can’t see can make you sick.
In a typical day, a supermarket cart can be exposed to plenty of harmful bacteria from raw meats to germs left by previous users!
We wanted to see - what if anything - we could find on some shopping carts. We randomly picked five stores from around Cuyahoga County.
We used culture swabs provided by a local lab to test the carts. We swabbed the handlebars where babies often put their mouths and the cart seat. We swabbed inside the baskets too where meats can sometimes drip.
A local lab tested the swabs and after a few weeks the results came in.
Our carts came back free of E-coli. Tests did show the presence of fecal coliform on one cart.
Four of the five carts registered high bacteria counts.
For you and me, the higher the bacteria, the greater chance of getting sick.
“[There could be] cold symptoms, pneumonia … some of the others I see in here could give you the stomach flu, the vomiting and the diarrhea,” said Rick Melendez of the Cuyahoga County Board of Health.
The results are no surprise to Bobbie Randall. She is a certified instructor of food safety and sanitation for Buehler’s Food Markets. “We do have a heightened interest in this,” Randall said. “It is more important than ever because there are almost 80 million cases of foodborne illnesses every year.”
Randall offers these helpful hints:
Wash your hands before and after hitting the grocery store.
Also use plastic bags offered in the meat and produce departments to help keep contamination down.
“If there are juices coming from your meat product, treat them as a toxic substance,” Randall said.
Anti-bacterial wipes help, but realize once you’ve touched anything else, they’re contaminated again.
Ken Luciano sees an opportunity in dirty carts.
His company markets a chemical free cleaning system already used in restaurants, hotels and even hospital operating rooms.
“The Euro Steam is a steam cleaner that gets steam to 240 to 260 degrees,” he said. “At that temperature, you are cleaning and sanitizing everything.”
Some stores we checked with do wash their carts. Others offer the anti-bacterial wipes. But neither is guarantee. You’ll leave the store with only the items in your bags.
Parents of little ones might consider a shopping cart protector. They are covers you can buy the internet. They cost about $20 to $30.
For more information about food safety, click on the link below.
Bobbie Randall says you need a good 20 seconds of hot water and soap hitting all your fingers, just like a surgeon.