The little-known 'important' free service in every Woolworths store

A little-known, free service in Woolworths and Coles supermarkets may help put at ease shoppers who are becoming increasingly concerned about hygiene while at public places.

With the potential spread of coronavirus Australians are becoming more vigilant at taking precautions to minimise the spread of infection.

One area of concern is the shared items at supermarkets including shopping baskets and trolleys.

A 2017 study found shopping trolleys from ‘traditional’ grocery stores have 361 times more germs than your average toilet door handle, and when you consider how many times a day a shopping trolley is used every day, it should be no surprise they can be riddled with germs.

A free service available to supermarket customers can help them minimise the risk of coming in contact with harmful bacteria.

In all Woolworths stores in Australia and most Coles stores, people can access hygiene stations to wipe down their trolleys. Source: Euan Black (left) /Getty (right)
In all Woolworths stores in Australia and most Coles stores, people can access hygiene stations to wipe down their trolleys. Source: Supplied (left)/Getty (right)

Woolworths and Coles have both implemented facilities to protect customers from potential germs when handling trolleys and baskets.

A Woolworths spokesperson confirmed to Yahoo New Australia hygiene stations have been in stores for “a number of years” now.

“Hygiene stations – which include hand sanitiser and anti-bacterial wipes for customers – are located in all our stores nationwide,” the spokesperson said.

A Coles spokesperson confirmed to Yahoo the shopping baskets are cleaned daily, and shopping trolleys are washed “when required”.

A Woolworths hygiene station at the Alexandria store in Sydney. Source: Euan Black
"Help yourself to a shopping trolley wipe," the Woolworths hygiene station says. Source: Supplied

“We also have hygienic wipe dispensers available for customers at the majority of our stores across the country,” the Coles spokesperson told Yahoo News Australia.

“If hygienic wipes are not available, customers can ask at the customer service desk and our team members can assist them.”

One Coles shopper said they were impressed to discover their local store was supplying anti-bacterial trolley wipes and paper at the trolley bay.

The front of a Coles supermarket. Source: AAP Image
To prevent the spread of harmful bacteria, supermarkets across Australia have provided anti-bacterial dispensers in recent years. Source: AAP Image

“My prayer has been answered!! I hope all other supermarkets will follow suit. It is called customer service and hygiene,” the customer wrote on Facebook.

“Well done Coles.”

Should you wipe down your shopping trolley?

Dr Holly Seale, an expert in infectious diseases from the University of NSW, told Yahoo News Australia it is important to advocate for good hygiene within our communities.

“That includes hand washing after going to the bathroom, before handling food, or being in contact with children or anyone who has got a respiratory infection, or definitely a diarrheal infection” she said.

“We always want to make sure we’re doing those things anyway.”

Pictured is a Woolworths shopping trolley. Source: Getty
Both Woolworths and Coles provide anti-bacterial dispensers for customers to wipe down their trolleys. Source: Getty

Dr Seale said shopping trolleys are just like any other surface you come into contact with on a day-to-day basis and wiping down a trolley is just “common sense” in a few circumstances.

“If you think you’re going to be placing a child in one of those trolleys, or maybe you’re handling it and you’ve got an underlying health condition, it is important to go one step ahead and try and clean that product.”

However, Dr Seale said wiping down an entire shopping trolley for the rest of the healthy population wasn’t necessary, instead, she says it’s important to focus on good personal hygiene, and avoid touching your face after touching a shopping trolley.

Pictured is a child sitting in a shopping trolley. Source: Getty
Although the general population should not stress about wiping down their trolley, parents with children should consider it. Source: Getty

“The risk [of getting sick from a trolley] isn’t that high,” she said, stressing it is still important to look out for those most vulnerable within the community – children, people with a chronic illness and the elderly.

Dr Seale also said she doubts we will start to see shoppers regularly wiping down their trolleys, and if people become obsessive about cleaning their trolleys, it could negatively impact their mental health.

So instead, she suggests going back to basics and having a balance.

“We have enough trouble getting people to comply with hand hygiene, so let’s focus on that instead. Let’s make sure everybody understands how to properly wash their hands.”

In a statement to Yahoo News Australia, NSW Health explained the best and easiest way to prevent the spread of germs.

“While using antibacterial wipes on shopping trolleys is useful, simple hand hygiene measures when out and about is best to help limit the spread of unnecessary infections,” a NSW Health spokesperson said.

Hand washing (pictured) is the best method to prevent the spread of infection. Source: Getty
Dr Seale said it would be most beneficial to encourage personal hygiene. Source: Getty

In 2016, a mother from Queensland believed her infant son contracted a deadly combination of illnesses after a trip to the supermarket.

Her son, who is susceptible to illnesses, suffered salmonella poisoning, was placed in intensive care and doctors agreed placing her child in the shopping trolley may have made the child ill.

“If anything it’s my own fault for not thinking about wiping it down, for not protecting my child,” she said on 7 News, calling for all supermarkets to have anti-bacterial wipes available and for parents to use them.

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