Shopping Carts More Germy Than Public Restrooms

Arkansas set to pass law forcing grocery stores to clean up their carts

ByABC News via logo
February 8, 2007, 7:30 AM

Feb. 8, 2007 — -- Grocery store shopping cart handles have more germs than public restrooms, making them one of the worst public places for germs, according to researchers.

It's a problem that at least one state, Arkansas, is trying to address, by passing a law forcing stores to clean up their carts.

How germy could shopping carts really be? Very, according to researchers at the University of Arizona who tested all kinds of public surfaces. They found that shopping carts were loaded with more saliva, bacteria and even fecal matter than escalators, public telephones, and even public bathrooms.

The only surfaces that had more germs were playground equipment and bus rails.

The Arkansas law will push grocery stores to provide sanitation wipes at the door so customers don't have to wrap their hands around the last shopper's bacteria.

"When I was campaigning, many of my constituents brought it to my attention [that] many shopping carts could possibly have germs and contamination on them," Rep. Fred Allen, D-Ark., told "Good Morning America."

"Every kid in America teethes on shopping cart handles," said Dr. Chuck Gerba at the University of Arizona. "They don't have the best sanitary habits. I mean, you're putting your broccoli where their butt was."

That's why Amanda Gutstadt always carries sanitizer when she shops with her son Max, especially during flu season.

Even a fifth-grader can detect the germs. Nicole Shaw's testing of shopping carts Wednesday night won her a spot in the North Carolina Regional Science Fair.

"When I found the E.coli, I thought it was pretty nasty," she said. "I am working on getting a patent on my shopping cart cleaning system."

Some supermarkets already offer wipes, but if yours does not, germ experts say the smartest thing to do is wash your hands and your child's hands after you leave.

Another option is to spring for a baby shopping seat cover.