Unless you've just watched someone do it, it's pretty hard to be certain that the cart you just pulled out of the "cart-corral" has been cleaned and sanitized.

Just out of curiosity, I've asked a few people who work in area stores (that offer shopping carts) how often the carts themselves, or at least their handles, get sanitized. Answers have varied from "we do it after every shopper" to "we try to make sure we get them good at least once a week." The person who told me it was every time the cart gets used didn't seem fully convinced of his own answer.

Enter Midwestern grocery chain Hy-Vee. Founded in Iowa in 1930, Hy-Vee has more than 245 locations in Iowa, Illinois, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Wisconsin. It looks like the nearest one to the Rockford area is in Sycamore.

Hy-Vee made the announcement on Tuesday of this week that they would be the first grocery chain to introduce an automated cleaning system to sanitize shopping carts.

The cleaning system is the product of another Midwestern company (also Iowa-based) called Sterile Cart. Here's the description of the cleaning system from their website:

Sterile Cart is a fully automated system that entirely cleans many carts quickly and consistently to help protect your customers and employees. Sterile Cart is designed with an automated 2 stage spray system that utilizes a dry in place, food-grade disinfectant that has been proven to kill 99.9% of germs and viruses.

Customers shop where they feel safe. The #1 customer concern when reaching for a shopping cart: IS IT CLEAN? The answer with Sterile Cart: YES, IT’S CLEAN!

They point out that most chemicals require the surface to be wet for 1-5 minutes in order to kill germs and viruses. Therefore, spraying a cart handle and quickly wiping it down, with the same cloth, does not accomplish the goal.

Hy-Vee, Facebook

Hy-Vee says they plan on rolling out this new tech to 200 stores by mid-November.

And, it would appear that Sterile-Cart isn't the only one with an idea on how to sanitize shopping carts: