A new study found that the germiest surfaces in a grocery store are the refrigerator door handles. They become more than 1,000 times more contaminated from morning to evening. The second most contaminated surfaces are the self-checkout touch screens. Researchers at Safehome.org found that the screens have 97 times more germs at night than first thing in the morning.
The COVID-19 pandemic affected the way we shop, the way we clean and the way we became hooked on hygiene. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said last April that the risk of transmission of COVID-19 by touching surfaces is “low,” and the agency said in its report that quantitative microbial risk assessment (QMRA) studies found that there is a less than a one in 10,000 chance you can contract the virus by touching a contaminated surface.
However, the Safehome.org study found that people are still more likely to proceed with caution.
While America begins to relax its COVID-19 restrictions, some shoppers still feel safer wiping down their carts and washing their hands after handling or touching foreign objects. The Safehome.org survey found that 3 out of 4 respondents felt more comfortable when grocery stores continue to enforce mask requirements.
“As the pandemic shifted our grocery shopping experience, new safety measures were put into place across the U.S., giving consumers a sense of safety and security,” Ryan McGonagill, director of Industry Research at Safehome.org, told Newsmax. “We were interested in studying the effectiveness of these new sanitation protocols at preventing the accumulation of germs throughout the day, determining which surfaces benefit the most from frequent scrub-downs, and also assessing the impact of COVID-19 on consumers’ future shopping habits.”
There is no question that the study revealed the early bird doesn’t get the germs. For example, the researchers found that shopping cart handles were remarkably free of germs but had eight times more bacteria in the evening. Self-checkout touch screens had 97 times the amount of germ growth at the end of the day and refrigerator handles had a whopping 1,434 more germs from morning to night.
Therefore, the best time to go grocery shopping is when the store first opens its doors, even if it implements sanitation procedures during the day. Everything has been sanitized by the night cleaning crew and there are fewer people in the store, according to Safehome.org. The experts added that it is safest to shop during weekdays rather than on crowded weekends.
Understanding the dirty truth about grocery store surfaces is the first step in protecting yourself against illnesses caused by germs. The Food and Drug Administration offers these tips for shoppers:
- Prepare a shopping list in advanced. Purchase about one to two weeks’ worth of food and stick to your list so you do not spend unnecessary time in the store.
- Wear a face mask or covering. While many grocery stores have relaxed this precautionary measure, the Safehome.org study found that 75% of people feel safer when masked.
- Carry your own wipes. Sanitize the surfaces you touch, such as the shopping cart handle, yourself. If you are using a touch screen to check out, wipe down that surface carefully.
- Stay a safe distance from other shoppers and do not touch your face, especially after opening a refrigerator door!
- Wash your hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds when you get home.
- Wash reusable bags after every use.
Ordering online and taking advantage of curbside pickup or home delivery is another way to reduce contact with germs found in a grocery store.
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