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KSL: Sanitary wipes are used and work at grocery stores

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SALT LAKE CITY — Grocery stores across Utah set out stands of sanitizing wipes for customers to wipe he germs off their carts.

“We use a ton of them,” says Dawson Winchester, the community representative for Winegars supermarket in Bountiful.

First introduced to customers several years ago, Winchester says the wipes have become a hot commodity at Winegars’ three stores. Each location goes through a case of sanitary cloths a week – or nearly 12,000 a month.

“They don’t wipe the whole cart, but at least the handle,” Winchester says. “They just feel safer and feel like it’s more sanitary for them.”

KSL 5 News put one popular brand to the test against the surface hundreds of people touch every day to find out if wipes do the job. The results showed shoppers are right to believe the cart handles are unsanitary and could use a cleaning.

“You don’t know who’s touched it,” says shopper Sueanne Levin. “If they’ve sneezed on their hands or where their hands have been.”

She keeps her gloves on if a store doesn't have wipes available.

And Levin isn't alone.

Kristina Kavanaugh says she always wipes the cart down to protect her son from germs left behind by another shopper.

“I’m just worried about my son getting sick,” she says. “Just colds and the flu.”

Those testimonials aside, KSL spent several days at three stores watching shopper after shopper grab a cart or basket and walk in without wiping off. While wipes are popular, only 18 percent of those observed used them.

Do the Wipes Work?

Whether you use the wipes or not – the question remains – do they work? To find out, KSL put the popular Clorox brand Disinfectant Wipes to the test against 23 shopping cart handles. Since germ levels varied between carts, only one type of wipe was used to maintain consistency in the survey.

Samples were taken before sanitizing to get a total germ count from the handle, and again after sanitizing to see how well the wipes worked. The samples were then taken to ALS Laboratory Group where microbiologist, Adrian Gallardo, could grow whatever germs were found.

“You had a lot of growth,” Gallardo says. “It did drop actually.”

The samples taken before sanitation revealed large colonies of bacteria on all of the cart handles. Most were common to the environment, although some coliforms were found. Coliforms are another type of common bacteria, but their presence increases the chances of finding more serious bugs like E. coli and Salmonella, none of which was detected.

“Since there’s so much activity throughout the day, you get a good number of microbes,” says Gallardo.

After sanitation, both types of bacteria were virtually gone. The wipes killed 80 to 100 percent of the bugs in 17 of the 23 samples. The remaining six saw significant reductions, though some bacteria remained.

“They (the wipes) did knock down the numbers of coliforms,” says Gallardo. “That’s a good sign.”

“It did pretty well for that particular brand,” he added. “People can be confident that it does work.”

While this experiment only tested one brand of wipes, Gallardo says others will likely work as well as long as their active ingredients are the same as those in the Clorox brand.

Winchester from Winegars’ says he was pleased with the results because he wasn’t sure if they worked.

“It makes me feel good because for the longest time I didn’t know if we were just sort of wasting money bringing these in,” he says. He added, “It’s nice to know that at least the money that we’re spending is well worth the money that we’re spending.”

E-mail: dwimmer@ksl.com, lwilliams@ksl.com