Use disinfecting wipes on carts to prevent disease
Many stores now have disinfecting wipes available near their shopping carts and baskets. Some people use them; others don't want to be bothered.
According to Michael Johnson, Utah State University Extension Grand County director, studies show that large amounts of bacteria can often be found on these surfaces, so it is worth taking a few extra seconds to wipe the handles of shopping carts and baskets. University of Arizona studies show these bacteria can range from Campylobacter to salmonella and E. coli, which can cause illnesses such as headache, fever, diarrhea, abdominal pain and nausea.
"According to Dr. Charles Gerba of the University of Arizona, the amounts of bacteria found on these surfaces were higher than those found in public restrooms, which can be a concerning thought," Johnson said. "However, that is likely due to restrooms being regularly cleaned, which is usually not the case with shopping carts and baskets."
In addition to bacteria, there can also be concerns when people with colds or the flu touch shopping carts or baskets. The Centers for Disease Control notes that the cold and flu viruses can generally survive on hard surfaces from two to eight hours.
"When you think about the number of times a cart is touched in eight hours, there are all kinds of things that can get passed around," Johnson said. "Especially when you consider the number of people who catch colds or the flu each year, yet still have to go out and shop - if for no other reason than to buy medicine or comfort foods."
There are some stores in the United States that have instituted regular cleaning regimes for their carts to help limit bacteria levels.
"Regardless of whether the stores where you shop do this, you can be proactive by cleaning the handles and even the seats on shopping carts with disinfecting wipes," Johnson said. "There may be those who would suggest the risk isn't very high for catching anything from a shopping cart. But being proactive can't hurt."
Another way to be proactive against germs is regular hand washing.
"If you touch potentially contaminated surfaces, don't touch your face until after thoroughly washing your hands," Johnson said. "If this isn't possible, use disinfecting wipes or hand sanitizer."