The next time you run into your grocery store and grab a cart, beware! The handle of that shopping cart could very well be coated in E. coli bacteria or fecal bacteria.
A team led by University of Arizona microbiology professor Dr. Charles Gerba swabbed 85 grocery cart handles in four states looking for bacterial contamination. They found that 72 percent harbored fecal bacteria, and upon closer examination, 50 percent had E. coli bacteria, as well as a host of other germs.
"That's more than you find in a supermarket's restroom," Gerba told MSNBC. "That's because they use disinfecting cleaners in the restrooms. Nobody routinely cleans and disinfects shopping carts."
Previous research has shown that children who ride in shopping carts are more likely than others to develop infections caused by salmonella and campylobacter.
And that's not your only concern. Gerba says that unless reusable shopping bags are regularly laundered, they turn into bacterial swamps. "It's like wearing the same underwear every day," he warned MSNBC.
What can you do?
- Take advantage of the free disinfecting wipes offered at the entrance of most grocery stores. Grab one or two and carefully wipe down not only the cart handle, but also the seat and area around the seat. Do this even if you don't have a child with you. After all, if the previous user had a child with a dirty diaper, the fecal bacteria left on the cart could get on your purse or food.
- Wash your reusable shopping bags in hot water after every use. Tumble dry on low to keep them from getting wrinkled and balled up. (If that's too much work, do it at least once a month.)
- Package all meat and fish in a plastic bag. You don't want it leaking onto your reusable bags.
- If you don't wash your reusable shopping bags after every use, be sure to let them air out and fully dry before storing them.
--From the Editors at Netscape