Shopping-Cart Wash Fends Off Germs

Disinfecting devices make sure shoppers don't pick up germs with the groceries.

ByABC News
November 12, 2008, 2:52 PM

Nov. 12, 2008— -- WIth the multitude of hands that pass over them, shopping carts are germ traps. And when kids gnaw on cart handles, customers have reason to be more than concerned.

At a supermarket in Chevy Chase, Md., recently, several customers said they were horrified to see their youngsters mouthing the handlebar.

"Especially when they used to sit in the back of the cart, they would always put their mouths down onto the handlebar, or they would put their fingers on the bar and then put their fingers in the mouth," said Deborah Kriznik, a shopper and mother.

University of Arizona researchers tested shopping carts and found that their handles have more saliva, bacteria and fecal matter than public toilets. Kids are sometimes the culprits.

"They don't necessarily have the best sanitary habits," said Dr. Chuck Gerba, an environmental microbiologist at the University of Arizona. "And you're putting your broccoli right where the kid's butt was."

Other times, the cart contaminates the kids. Riding in a shopping cart near raw meat is one of the top salmonella risk factors for children, right below exposure to reptiles, according to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.

"Children start playing with the meat and the meat wrapper, they can become infected that way," said Dr. William Schaffner, chairman of the department of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt Medical School in Nashville, Tenn. "It's not the cart itself, but what you put in it that matters."

To combat germs, 20 supermarkets across the country have taken an innovative step, installing sanitizing devices for shopping carts. The machines look like mini car washes for carts and spray a misty peroxide solution over the entire cart after every use that is guaranteed to kill 99 percent of germs, including E. coli and salmonella.