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How Gross Is Your Shopping Cart?

Zipping out to the grocery store with your baby can be a fun outing for the both of you but, if you're anything like me, you've probably harbored some pretty strong suspicions about those grocery carts and just how dirty they might really be.

Nobody really believes their cart is ACTUALLY clean but most of us kind of hope for the best or at least try to put it out of our minds, maybe give it a quick wipe down with a sanitzing wipe and get on with the business of shopping,  

But, in case you were wondering just how bad shopping carts really are, a recent study has left absolutely zero doubt.  Yes Virginia, they are really, REALLY gross.

The study, conducted by Dr. Charles P. Gerba, took samples from 85 random shopping carts and the results were unsettling to say  the least.   Approximately 50 percent of the handles on the carts carried E. coli, while a whopping 72 percent contained coliform bacteria (which might explain previous research that found that kids who rode in shopping carts were at greater risk for developing bacterial infections). 

Dr. Gerba's report concludes:  "The exceptionally high level of coliform bacteria suggests that fecal material may be involved in cart contamination."
In other words, that shopping cart that you grab down at your local Wal Mart is most likely harboring nasty bathroom germs.

According to experts, these germs can make their way onto shopping carts in a number of ways, including the children riding in the carts, store employees and even parents themselves.

Depending on the strength of your baby's immune system, these germs, and especially the fecal coliforms have the potential to cause illness, notes Liz Scott, a researcher at University of Boston.  As she explained in a recent interview with Fox News: "The concern is that we can pick up pathogens from the cart that can be transmitted directly to our mouths or other foodstuffs."

So, are these germs really that big of a deal?  Everyone knows that germs are everywhere from household counters, floors, keys and cell phones.  So how bad could the germs on a shopping cart be?

Worse than you might think according to another recent study conducted at St. Louis University which discovered that, on average, there are 138,000 total bacteria per square inch of a shopping cart — an amount which exceeds the number of bacteria in the average public restroom!

And unfortunately, these types of fecal germs are not the only cause for concern. According to the study, the foods that you put in your cart, especially fresh fruits and vegetables and raw meats may be carrying additional dangerous micro-organisms like Listeria, Shigella and Salmonella.

With all of these sinister germs lurking at the local supermarket, it's not surprising that most stores keep a dispenser of disinfecting wipes near the carts.   However, this might not be effective enough to get the job done.

The  sanitizer is good in theory but not that great in practice explains Scott. "Where exactly do you apply the disinfectant and how effective is it?"  In addition, the active ingredient in many  of these disinfectants is benzalkonium chloride.  To completely disinfect a surface using this chemical it has to be applied and left wet on the surface for close to 4 minutes.  If you're able to do that, it will kill 99.9% of the germs but most of us don't have enough time to wait that long!  

According to Scott, the best solution is to ensure that your child doesn't touch the shopping cart handle at all - something that can be achieved by ensuring that the area that your baby rides in is covered with a blanket or shopping cart cover.  "If you can't do that, you're probably better off leaving your baby at home".

Let us know what you think.  Do you worry about your baby's exposure to germs when you're out and about?