As a working carer, maintaining your health and vitality are of utmost importance.

Every single thing you can do to keep the bad bugs away from you and your loved ones is worth any extra effort required.

If you get sick, the extra work in caring for someone else may become unsustainable. If your loved one gets sick, the caring load will escalate, sapping your strength as well as theirs.

That is why we are sharing this research with you on the harmful bacteria you will find on shopping trolley handles and shopping baskets that can make you very sick indeed – and you may never guess where your infection came from!

We all go shopping to the supermarket and never think of it as a dangerous environment. But did you know that the bacteria on shopping trolley handles are far worse than any you will find in a public toilet?

That was the finding of a University of Arizona study called Bacterial Contamination of Shopping Carts.

The goal of the project was to determine the general sanitation of shopping trolleys.

It was revealed that shopping trolley handles (and the little ‘seats’ behind the handles, where children sit), were a reliable source of infection with the very nasty bugs Salmonella, Campylobacter, Escherichia coli (E-coli) and patho­genic Staphylococcus aureus (staph bacteria).

Coliforms were detected on 72% of the trolleys. E. coli was identified on 51%. The results of this study suggest the need for improved sanitation of shopping trolleys/baskets to reduce exposure to pathogens and potential transmission of microbial infections among shoppers.

The number of bacteria detected on the shopping trolleys ranged from 110 to 11 million and coliform bacteria from 3 to 7,259. Coliforms were detected on 72% of the trolleys sampled. E. coli was the most common coliform identified.

The common occurrence of coli­form and E. coli bacteria on shopping trolleys indicates that the consumer is ex­posed to enteric bacteria on a regular basis when using grocery shopping trolleys.

Contamination of raw meat prod­ucts with bacterial enteric pathogens, such as Salmonella, Campylobacter and E-coli, occurs on a regular ba­sis so it is no wonder these can easily be transferred to the shopping trolley when people buy meat. Every user adds to the contamination of shopping trolley handles and baskets.

Coliform bacteria often originate from faeces and are associated with poor sani­tary conditions. Coliform bacteria and E. coli detected on the trolleys may have originated from contact with raw foods (e.g. meat or chicken), birds (while the trolleys were sitting in the parking lots between use), other sources of animal faeces, and contact with faecally contaminated hands or other body parts (e.g. from infants in nappies).

The most shocking finding of the study, however, was that total bacterial levels on shopping trolleys were far greater than those found in public toilets, or on objects that are commonly touched in public places.

Shopping trolley handles had more nasty bacteria than ATM machines, restaurant tabletops, escalators, even nappy changing tables, and more than found on common surfaces at airports, bus stations and train stations.

It is easy to see how the consumer could then potentially transfer these disease-causing bacteria to their car, their home and to people in their care unless they followed very strict hygiene procedures, such as thoroughly washing their hands with hot water and soap.

The results of this study suggest the need for improved sanitation of shopping trolleys/baskets to reduce exposure to pathogens and transmission of bacterial infections among shoppers.

Two solutions to reduce exposure of consumers are to provide consum­ers with a disinfectant contained in a wipe or to provide dis­posable plastic barriers are designed to fit over the trolley handle.

Of course, supermarkets are unlikely to do this any time soon, so you would be well advised to take your own disinfecting wipes when going supermarket shopping.

Study: Bacterial Contamination of Shopping Trolleys and Approaches to Control; Charles P. Gerba* and Sheri Maxwell; Dept. of Soil, Water and Environmental Science, University of Arizona.