A consumer advocacy organization has launched a campaign to put conveyor belts at supermarket checkout stands under the microscope — literally. Called Good Armor, the group recently issued a press release referring to the checkstand belts as "bacteria-infested," noting that "shoppers place billions of products on these contaminated belts each year, exposing foods to potentially harmful yeasts, molds, and coliform bacteria."

In the Good Armor release, executive director Marc Dorfman said, "Recent studies by a Michigan State University scientist show that these black conveyor belts are among the dirtiest surfaces in your local grocery store, and a breeding ground for unwanted microorganisms.”

He explained that because the conveyor belts are made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC), they are extremely durable, with a lifespan of  30+ years. However, Dorfman said, the material is also porous, "so you can scrub them day and night, but you will never get them clean" from a microbiological standpoint. He claimed that even if a supermarket replaces an old belt, the new belt will be fully contaminated within six months.

The solution to this problem, Dorfman said, is found in advanced technology products and surface materials that prevent bacterial growth. He noted that recently, leading grocers such as Jewel Osco, Weis Markets, Giant Eagle and Spartan Stores have begun installing antimicrobial conveyor belt covers. Dorfman added that a new, EPA-approved antimicrobial technology is also being applied to other surfaces, such as NFL locker rooms and cruise ships.