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 This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.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.)

Comments (38)
  1. So what says:

    Dumb pedaphile!!!

  2. Dave says:

    So of all the stock photos for a fecal bacteria story you could have picked…

    1. Jimmy says:

      Wow. Sometimes it is hard to tell if someone is stupid or has a sense of humor, isn’t it?

      1. Jenny says:

        No, it is obviously humor.

  3. Buck says:

    Guessing stores already knew this info and is y so many provide anti Bac wipes at front door to wipe handles etc with.

    1. Mary says:

      Buck… I use them 🙁

  4. Jon says:

    Grow a pair. Whatever next? ‘An abundance of faecal matter in toilets’? We have something called an IMMUNE SYSTEM which deals with this kind of stuff. Keeping everything perfectly clean and wrapping our kids in protective bubbles does nothing but make them weaker. Pathetic scaremongering to sell unnecessary cleaning products. Dirt is good for you

    1. Shawn says:

      Jon, I’m with you. Typically, you can still eat raw meat and not have a whole lot to worry about. As I sit here and type this, I am depositing fecal matter in a toilet. Sorry to give everyone too much information but seriously, I’m not scared of it. How much animal fecal matter is in your kids sand box? How much fecal matter is on the local jungle gym or monkey bars? Where people congregate there is going to be bacteria! Why did it take a university study to tell us that?

      1. twinva10 says:

        do you have kids? Kids purposefully put their mouths on the carts, rub their hands all over the place and put them in their mouths, and no- they dont have as much defense from the germs because their immune system is still maturing. This article is important for people with kids or weakened immune systems. Bathrooms are assumed to be dirty, shopping carts are not.

    2. jasmine says:

      Jon and Shawn — bet you each have dogs and let them lick you on the face. Eeww!

      Considering the number of people who don’t wash their own hands in public restrooms for fear of touching anything germy and unclean kids (thanks to their parents), it is no wonder that grocery store shopping cart handles have high incidence of E. coli and fecal matter. — Hopefully this story will motivate people to wash their hands, even when using public restrooms.

    3. Amanda says:

      i can’t agree with you more!

    4. dhakkan says:

      Maybe you should go back to 1st grade to learn the difference between dirt and fecal matter

    5. C~ says:

      Maybe you should be scared of it. Dirt is not fecal matter. That’s how polio was usually spread. Thankfully there’s a vaccine now, but not before my grandfather contracted it and crippled him. It didn’t care about his immune system. We have the knowledge now, don’t be stupid, be safe.

    6. sheldon cooper says:

      Figures two guys wouldn’t care about hygiene.. Sure you cant disinfect everything…but if you’re so pro-germ why don’t you take your next sandwich and wipe it inside the bowl where you are depositing that fecal matter before you eat it?

      Didn’t think so, poser.

  5. Nic says:

    Ok, I have to admit, the stock picture is AWESOME. Hahahaha. It completely made my day.

    As far as fecal matter, don’t be idiots. Wash your hands and dont let your kid knaw on the handle. Pretty simple if you ask me. There’s a reason they make the cart-covers now for kids. I dont know many adults who go around licking shopping cart handles… though, that would make a great strange addiction episode…

  6. Homer Simpson says:

    Mmmmmm, FECAL MATTER!

  7. Scott says:

    Nice choice of stock photos for this story guys…..

  8. Glenn says:

    You have to ingest those types of pathogens for them to affect you in any way, you can’t get sick from absorbing them through your skin. Why do you think parents make you wash before dinner? Even if they didn’t know, THEY KNOW!

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  10. i am so licking the shopping cart next time…ok ya that was pretty gross.

  11. Karen Willis says: