The Shopping Cart, a Health Hazard

The Shopping Cart, a Health Hazard

The shopping cart must be one of the inventions of the Dirty Thirties we least think about nowadays. Still, back then, it immensely changed the way people shopped. They no longer had to hand carry around all the things they were buying, but could put everything conveniently in the new favorite shopping aid: the shopping cart. Next time you’re standing with a full shopping cart in line at the cash register, just imagine how you would have been able to carry all that stuff without the cart.

But there is one huge problem with shopping carts we think maybe even think less about; it is a great recipient for all kinds of germs and bacteria. It actually constitutes a real danger to our health, especially in these days of new flues and possible epidemics.

It is not just the handle of the shopping cart that is a major risk. Granted, the handles are held by so many people day in, day out. You can be sure that some of them carry some pretty hazardous germs on their sometimes unwashed hands. People also cough and sneeze on them. And how about the shoppers that handle raw chicken, meat and fish? Do you think they are going to wash their hands before getting back at the handle of their shopping cart? All of this makes the handle of a shopping cart a number one risk for virus or germ transmission to your hands. You might think that, all in all, it is not too risky since you can always wash your hands after you shop. But remember that with those hands you will be picking fruit and vegetables, handling your wallet or purse, and maybe touching your steering wheel and parts of your car.

Far worse and more dangerous however is the fold out child seat. People put their infants in there, some wearing diapers and some of those diapers might hold a present. Woman also use it to carry their purses that have may have been put on the floor for example. And how about older children? Lots of them stand on the seat before actually sitting down in it. The horrors they might have stepped in before entering the supermarket…

Yet, most of us also use that same seat to carry our vegetables and especially our fruits, so they don’t get bruised. Lots of vegetables and fruits are eaten uncooked and just maybe even unwashed (try convincing your teenager he always has to wash the fruit he’s going to eat…)

The inside of the cart is no stranger to germs and virus either. Kinds sit and stand in them, sometimes packages of chicken or meat drip juice, you name it. The risk of contamination here are way lower though.

The University of Arizona conducted a four-year study on shopping carts and found them to be full of human saliva, mucus, urine, fecal matter and blood and juices from raw fish, chicken and meat. Closer examination of the handles and the child seats showed some harbored E-coli, Salmonella, Staphylococcus, Influenza and many others. They actually ranked third on the list of worst public things to touch, just below playground toys and the armrests of public transportation. Shopping carts are far worse than public bathrooms; at least those get cleaned way more often.

So what can you do to protect yourself? If the supermarket offer sanitation wipes, use them diligently on handle and seat. Clean at least the bottom of the cart. If the supermarket doesn’t supply any wipes, use commercially available ones, like Clorox brand or simply use hand sanitizing gel with alcohol on handle and seat.