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Study: Fecal Bacteria Found On Most Supermarket Shopping Carts

LOS ANGELES (CBS) — Next time you head down to your local supermarket, you may be taking your health into own hands — literally.

New research shows that nearly three out of four shopping cart handles are rife with fecal bacteria, including some that can cause severe illness.

Dr. Victoria Millett, a local infectious disease specialist, tells KFWB's Maggie McKay researchers actually found more fecal bacteria on grocery cart handles than you would typically find in a bathroom.


Professor Charles Gerba, the lead researcher in the University of Arizona study, took samples from the handles of 85 carts across four states for bacterial contamination.

Gerba says 72 percent of the carts tested positive for fecal bacteria, with up to half the samples containing Escherichia coli, otherwise known as E. coli.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website says some strains of E. coli are harmless, but others can cause serious and potentially lethal illnesses.

There are an estimated 70,000 infections with an especially virulent strain E. coli, and a similar number of people who experience diarrhea as a result of infection with a less virulent strain.

Since most stores disinfect their bathrooms much more thoroughly than their shopping carts — if ever — researchers say it's up to the shopper to take precautions.

While experts have a number of different theories as to what's to blame, all are unanimous in their advice for avoiding contact with even the dirtiest of handles: wash your hands early and often.

(©2010 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)

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