Where do shopping cart germs come from?

Consumer Reports News: June 22, 2011 07:08 AM

Most shopping carts teem with germs. What can you do about it?

Some shopping cart germs come from little kids who gnaw on cart handles, touch them with dirty hands, or wear a leaky diaper while sitting in a cart. Others come from grown-ups, including such substances as blood from packaged raw meat that’s handled, which can carry salmonella, E. coli, and campylobacter.

Those germs can infect children who chew on or touch cart handles and then put their fingers in their mouth, according to Kelly Reynolds, an associate professor at the University of Arizona in Tucson and the lead author of a study published in the International Journal of Environmental Health Research on shopping cart germs.

While the answer may be buying a shopping cart cover for baby, Reynolds says that many germs, including those that cause MRSA (an antibiotic-resistant infection) can "survive very well on fabric." That's why he recommends washing a cart cover in hot water with a bleach-based disinfectant, and drying it completely, every time it’s used. If you don't think you can commit to washing the cover after each use, skip this purchase and use the sanitizing wipes many stores provide, or bring your own to wipe the shopping cart handle and seat before placing your child inside. Sanitizing wipes can do a good job of reducing the germ load.

Even after wiping, discourage your baby from gnawing on the handle by bringing along a favorite teething toy. Wiping the cart is a good practice even for older children, who may want to ride in the small plastic cars or seats that some stores attach to their carts. Before you let them grab that plastic steering wheel, wipe it down. Some stores now offer miniature carts that older children can push around the store themselves. When you wipe off your cart handle, take a moment to wipe off the junior-sized cart handle as well. And remember: Everyone should wash up after a trip to the store.

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