Use Disinfecting Wipes on Shopping Carts

Posted: October 4, 2014

Many local stores now have disinfecting wipes available near their shopping carts and baskets. These are a great tool to prevent illness...

     Studies show that large amounts of bacteria like Campylobacter, Salmonella, and E. coli can often be found on the handles of shopping carts and baskets.  So it’s a good idea to use those wipes to clean the handles before using the carts.
     Dr. Charles Gerba of the University of Arizona found the amounts of bacteria on these surfaces were higher than those found in public restrooms. 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 and Prevention notes that the cold and flu viruses can generally survive on hard surfaces from two to eight hours.
     Practice good health habits by cleaning the handles and even the seats on shopping carts with disinfecting wipes. Also wash hands regularly. If you touch potentially contaminated surfaces, avoid touching your face until after thoroughly washing your hands. And if this isn’t possible, use disinfecting wipes or hand sanitizer.

Clean Reusable Grocery Bags

     Reusable grocery bags are good for the environment but they can serve as a breeding ground for dangerous foodborne bacteria. Certain foods, such as raw produce, meat, poultry, and fish may contain bacteria that can cause foodborne illness. Reusable bags can pick up and accumulate the bacteria from these foods, which can then cross-contaminate other foods and non-food items if appropriate measures are not taken.

     Here are some tips for using reusable grocery bags:

  • When selecting meat, poultry, or fish, opt for clear plastic bags, not reusable ones to prevent the juices from contaminating reusable grocery bags. To make transport easier, you can put the bagged meats into a reusable bag, but separate meats from other items.
  • Fresh produce should be placed in clear plastic bags provided at the store. This also helps prevent cross-contamination and makes storage easier once home. Separate from produce from other items for the ride home.
  • At checkout, do not place reusable bags on the conveyor belt where they may pick up germs; hand them to the bagger or place them yourself in the bagging area.
  • Machine or hand wash reusable grocery bags. Do so frequently. Machine wash cloth and sturdy plastic bags; sturdy plastic bags may also be wiped down by-hand with a dilute bleach solution: 1 teaspoon bleach per quart of water.
  • After unloading groceries, clean kitchen counters where reusable grocery bags were placed.
  • Consider a color-coded system to keep ready-to-eat foods like bakery and fresh produce and meats separate. Designate certain bags to carry only fresh meats, others to carry produce and still others to carry non-food items.

Karen Thomas is a family and consumer sciences educator for Penn State Extension in Lackawanna County.