Visiting a brick-and-mortar grocery store almost always means strolling the aisles with a cart to store all your goods in. It's convenient, no doubt, but also filled with some dirty secrets: According to the "Germs at the Grocery Store" report from Reusethisbag.com, many surfaces at the supermarket can be filled with germs.
The researchers from the reusable bag company divided up American grocery retailers into four groups: traditional (like Acme, ShopRite, or Safeway), budget (say, Aldi or Trader Joe's), superstore (Costco, BJs, or Sam's Club) and upmarket (Whole Foods). It should be noted the company did not disclose which exact stores they surveyed and in what part of the country they ran their experiment.
Shopping Cart Handles Vary in How Much Bacteria Is on Them
After taking a deeper look at the grocery cart handles by swabbing them, a large deviation was observed between the categories. For instance, the cart handles of traditional supermarkets were the least clean: they contain 361 times the number of germs found on the typical doorknob. Budget stores, on the other hand, had 270 times the bacteria found on a toilet handle.
"Traditional grocery stores, by far, had the highest bacteria count," wrote the company. "Grocery carts at regular and budget stores carry hundreds of times more colony-forming units per square inch (or CFU/sq. in.) than surfaces in your bathroom."
Superstores and upscale grocers fared the best, with the former containing 3 times the bacteria found on a kitchen counter and the latter having the same amount of germs as the typical keyboard. Equally troubling was the finding that three-quarters of the shopping cart handles surveyed had gram-negative bacteria, which is being found to be increasingly antibiotic resistant.
Other Supermarket Surfaces Also Contain Germs
When looking at fridge doors, there are some equally troubling findings: a superstore's fridge doors, for example, have 1235 times more bacteria than a smartphone.
The study also swabbed fresh produce, and there's a compelling case to be made for washing all your produce before consuming it (if you're not already doing that). Traditional stores have 646 times more germs than a steering wheel, while an upscale market's produce has 11 times more bacteria than a pet food bowl.
"I realize now how important it is to rinse your produce thoroughly," Angela Kane, a creative team member at ReuseThisBag.com, told Hello Giggles. "Especially when it came to the budget stores we looked at; the produce contained more gram-negative rods than the fridge handles and the carts. That's gross."
Grossed out? There's no need to avoid your favorite grocery stores. You can always carry a disinfectant wipe, if need be, and always remember to give your produce a quick rinse before consuming.