What began as an idea from Sylvan Goldman in the late 1930′s ended in probably the most recognized part of the shopping experience; the shopping cart. In Goldman’s store, the Piggly Wiggly, the shopping cart allowed patrons to carry more items than their hands could hold. When you go to your local grocery store, take a quick peek at how many carts you see in the parking lot and in the store. For the sake of argument, let’s estimate 100 carts for your local grocery store patrons to use; any patron, any time, including those still in diapers.
When you grab a cart and make your way through the store, something else is traveling just as you are,namely: E. coli (Escherichia Coli) influenza, staphylococcus, and salmonella. A recent study in Arizona concluded that 72% of the tested shopping carts tested positive for one or more of these four viruses. So, for every four carts you use, three of them are guaranteed to have either E. coli, influenza, staphylococcus, and/or salmonella. And you can be assured that the E. coli, influenza, staphylococcus, and/or salmonella will be making their way home with you.
A related study yielded similar results, stating they found over 50% of the carts tested positive for E. coli. “That’s more than you find in a supermarket’s restroom,” said Charles Gerba, the study’s lead researcher and professor of microbiology. He explains, “They use disinfecting cleaners in the restrooms…nobody routinely cleans and disinfects shopping carts.” Gerba goes on to claim the study’s results may also explain previous research regarding children who rode in shopping carts being more likely to develop certain infections caused by salmonella and other bacteria.
Now, most grocery stores have placed sanitation wipes near the shopping carts as a method for shoppers to clean their carts if they choose to. Other companies, though, have taken this a step further and developed a cart wash system which actually treats your shopping cart the same way a car wash treats a car. These sanitizing machines spray the carts with a disinfecting mist that kills viruses and bacteria on contact, allowing for a more germ-free shopping experience. Great, huh? Until you get to the register and place your groceries in your eco-friendly reusable shopping bag. Unfortunately, green does not equal clean.
According to Gerba, reusable shopping bags that aren’t washed regularly turn into swamps of bacteria and microbes. He states, “It’s like wearing the same underwear every day.” The same E. coli, influenza, staphylococcus, and/or salmonella from the cart are also residing in your bag, which you take home and reuse again, and again, and again. When it comes to reusable bags, though, you can’t count on the store to have a washing machine at the entrance for your sanitary convenience. So, when you’re washing your dirty dishcloths and rags, throw in those environmentally-friendly grocery bags. By taking these measures, as well as taking the time to wipe down the shopping cart, you can keep yourself, your food, your home, and your family safer and healthier.