The Clever Way Some Grocery Stores Are Protecting Themselves From COVID-19

You may not have been to the grocery store lately, but if you have, there's something we think you should probably know — that your supermarket is full of high-touch points that may harbor different germ colonies, and these include shopping carts, refrigerator doors, and produce. A study conducted pre-pandemic in 2017 showed that budget shopping cart handles had 270 times more bacteria than a toilet handle; while traditional grocery store carts have 361 times more bacteria than a bathroom doorknob — with 75 percent of the germs found on those carts which are considered harmful to humans. Fridge doors can have as much as 1,235 more bacteria than your cellphone, and one of the most common types of bacteria found on these doors is resistant to antibiotics (via Insider). 

While we're hoping that people are washing their hands more carefully and more frequently since the pandemic started, we still can't be too sure that that is the case. Aside from using endless bottles of bleach, wipes, and alcohol sprays, establishments like grocery stores may have found a way to keep their customers and workers safer by using UVC light fixtures. Stores run these on timers which make them safer to use because they can come on when there is no one around (via PR Newswire).

UV lights have been used to kill micro-organisms for decades

Using UV light to kill germs may sound gimmicky, but UV technology has actually been used to kill micro-organisms for years. CNET says UV lights have been used to clean both water and air for decades; it is even used to disinfect devices such as your mobile phone. And while we're all familiar with UVA and UVB rays as the reasons we need to use sunblock, there is a third type of ultraviolet light, UVC — which is the most harmful but doesn't reach the Earth's surface thanks to our atmosphere. 

Still, engineers have been able to create UVC lights that have been proven to work against different viruses, including influenza, the SARS coronavirus, and the MERS coronavirus. UVC at a specific wavelength works because it causes lesions in the RNA and DNA of viruses, which can either kill or inactivate them. But whatever makes UVC effective against germs also makes it dangerous to humans, which means any UVC lights should only be used by teams that have the expertise to deal with this technology (via Live Science). Knowhow of this technology has allowed stores to use UV lights to disinfect shopping carts, making for what we hope is safer and healthier shopping experience.