A high school science project that involved hunting and butchering deer — including one road-kill capture — and turning the meat into kabobs backfired. The students — 29 in total — were sickened with a rare form of E. coli.
The E. Coli food poisoning incident was only recently reported in an infectious disease journal, although it originally happened in 2010.
Researchers from the University of Arizona swabbed shopping cart handles in four states looking for bacterial contamination. 72 percent turned out to have a marker for fecal bacteria. Upon closer inspection of the samples, researchers discovered Escherichia coli (E. coli), on 50 percent of them.
“That’s more than you find in a supermarket’s restroom,” said Charles Gerba, the lead researcher on the study and a professor of microbiology at the University of Arizona. “That’s because they use disinfecting cleaners in the restrooms. Nobody routinely cleans and disinfects shopping carts.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has determined that romaine lettuce from a single farm is likely to blame for an E. coli outbreak in Georgia, Missouri and eight other states.
Sixty people became sick in the outbreak that began in October and ended in November. No one died, but at least 30 were hospitalized and two developed severe kidney disease.
Thirty-seven of the illnesses were in Missouri. Illinois had the second-most reported illnesses with nine. Besides Georgia, other illnesses were reported in Arizona, Arkansas, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Minnesota and Nebraska.
Neil and her colleagues concluded that raw, ready-to-bake cookie dough was what caused 77 people in 30 states to become ill, 35 of whom became so sick that they needed to be hospitalized.
After learning about the outbreak, the researchers were able to track down the culprit by comparing the eating habits of 36 healthy volunteers to 36 people sickened by a deadly strain of E coli bacteria in 2009. Raw cookie dough consumption was the thing all 36 had in common.
When the researchers visited manufacturing plants where the cookie batter was being made their suspicions were confirmed: they found E coli in the samples they collected at the plants, according to the report which was published in Clinical Infectious Diseases.