It's the weekly task: all of us have to do get groceries. So, you grab your cart and fill it with food. But what could be lurking on it may surprise you. KTEN's Jocelyn Lockwood reports.
One grocery cart seat and handle can be covered in up to one million germs.
So, how do you protect yourself?
Before Michele Samuels grabs a grocery cart, she does a sanitation investigation, "I'll find candy wrappers or spilled sodas or pieces of fruit or vegetable."
With a young son, the thought of a cart covered in germs really "bugs" her.
Michele adds, "I really think about e. coli. I think about salmonella."
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, riding in a shopping cart beside meat and poultry is risky for children, especially infants younger than six months.
Food-borne bacteria is the cause of 76- million illnesses and five-thousand deaths every year.
But microbiologist and germ guru Dr. Chuck Gerba says food borne bacteria shouldn't be your only concern. He recently completed an eye-opening study on shopping carts.
Dr. Gerba, says "Overall, slightly more than 60/70% of the carts had fecal bacteria on them, and usually hundreds of thousands of bacteria on the average shopping cart."
Covering the buggies in more bacteria than other areas he tested, including public phones and public restrooms.
Dr. Gerba adds, "Probably because of the large number of people using it, the handling of raw food products. You're probably putting your broccoli right where some kid's bottom was."
Now, supermarkets are taking action. Some have installed cart sanitizing systems like pure cart.
President Jim Kratowicz says it's a simple "push through" cleaning machine, "Every time a cart is collected, the intent is that it goes through our system and a fine mist is applied to the cart."
The company's research shows it kills 99.9% of bacteria, including salmonella, staph and listeria.
Kratowicz says it meets strict government standards for its claims, "The base solution that's used is EPA/FDA approved. It is safe for human and food contact."
Other grocers choose to provide disposable sanitary wipes for customers.
Michele swipes the wipes whenever they're available, "It makes me feel like at least on the cart, when I'm touching the cart, or my son is holding on to the cart, that it's at least cleaned off some of the germs."
One popular brand: the Nice-Pak Sani-Cart wipe. It promises to kill nearly 100% of bacteria and is also EPA registered.
Matt Schiering of Nice-Pak says, "We provide stands, which contain hundreds of these wipes in several canisters."
But what if the store doesn't provide the opportunity to clean your cart?
Dr. Gerba says there are other ways. Arm yourself with your own pack of wipes, "The use of alcohol gel sanitizer is a good thing to carry with you."
Finally, wash your hands as soon as you can get to a sink.
Michele adds an extra layer of protection by placing her food directly into fabric shopping bags she can wash. That gives her peace of mind.
Michele says, "I try to be careful and cautious about the cleanliness of my food without being manic about it."
Pure Cart is in slightly over 20 grocery stores across the country, but is expanding.
Sani-wipes can be found in over 15 hundred individual stores.
If your grocer does not provide a way to clean your cart, experts recommend you ask them, too!
Jocelyn Lockwood, KTEN News