University of Arizona researchers analyzed shopping cart handles in four states and found that of the 85 carts tested, 72 percent had fecal bacteria markers, wrote MSNBC. The researchers then, more specifically, tested samples taken from 36 carts and found the Escherichia coli “E. coli” bacterium as well as a number of other bacteria on 50 percent of the carts, said MSNBC.
Charles Gerba, lead researcher on the study, said consumers should clean shopping cart handles with a disinfecting wipe, said MSNBC, which noted that some markets have long been offering wipes to help stave off shopping cart contamination.
“We saw that this was something our customers were concerned about,” said Libba Letton, spokesperson for Whole Foods Market stores, quoted MSNBC. “So, we make disposable wipes available for customers coming into the store with shopping carts,” Letton said, adding that Whole Foods does not typically wash down the carts unless it is aware of a spill.
Dr. Neil Fishman, an infectious disease expert and director of health care epidemiology and infection prevention at the University of Pennsylvania Health System, said that the best defense is keeping hands clean. “While you can’t sterilize your environment, you can limit exposure by practicing good hand hygiene,” said Dr. Fishman. “For most cases, alcohol hand rubs are the best for every day use,” quoted MSNBC.
E. coli is a potentially deadly pathogen and E. coli symptoms include bloody diarrhea, dehydration, abdominal cramps, and vomiting. In the most severe cases, the symptoms of E. coli poisoning can include kidney failure. The very young, seniors, and persons with weak immune systems are the most susceptible.
E. coli infection can lead to other adverse health effects, some long-term and serious, such as Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), which encompasses a group of disorders, including ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, which cause the intestines to become inflamed. IBD can cause abdominal cramps and pain, diarrhea, weight loss, and bleeding from the intestines. Victims of E. coli infection are also at risk of developing a form of reactive arthritis called Reiter’s Syndrome, which typically affects large weight-bearing joints such as the knees and the lower back.
Victims of E. coli poisoning sometimes require kidney transplants and may have scarred intestines that cause lasting digestive difficulty. Even E. coli patients who supposedly recovered can experience long-term health problems later on. For instance, it is estimated that 10 percent of E. coli sufferers develop a life-threatening complication called hemolytic uremic syndrome, or HUS, in which their kidneys and other organs fail.