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Sunday, July 3, 2011

5 Ways to Avoid E. Coli

5 Ways to Avoid E. Coli is a very relevant and highly valuable piece of information in these times of constant worry over the safety of our food sources worldwide.  
  "In the world's third largest E. coli outbreak in history, a rare strain of the common food-borne bacteria has killed 22 people and left more than 600 in intensive care.
  Meanwhile, more than 2,150 people in 12 countries are suffering from excruciating stomach cramps, diarrhea (which is often bloody) and frequent puking. And there are four suspected cases of E. coliinfection connected to this outbreak in the U.S.

Scary, huh?
All four U.S. patients recently visited Germany, home to a bean sprouts farm that officials pegged Monday as the likely culprit. Bean sprouts are a common source of E. coli, says Catherine Donnelly, Ph.D., professor of food microbiology at the University of Vermont.

"The Food and Drug Administration has long warned consumers to avoid consumption of sprouts since seed stock is often contaminated with microbial pathogens," she says."

But later... German agriculture officials said 23 of 40 produce samples from a suspected sprout farm failed to identify E. coli contamination, The New York Times reported. In other words, the case is still a mystery.

"Before you panic, take heart: Food-borne illness has been on the decline in recent years. However, you can get infected from swallowing lake water while swimming, touching animals in petting zoos and other animal exhibits and by eating foods prepared by people who didn't wash their hands after visiting the john."  (toilet)

"Here are five steps you can take to reduce your risk of E. coli infection, according to Ruth Frechman, registered dietitian in Los Angeles and spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association:

1. Wash your hands (and your produce)! Good hand washing is the single most important thing you can do, especially after using the bathroom (or changing diapers); touching animals or spending time in their environments (playing fetch with Fido, for example); and before preparing and eating food. Rinsing produce under running water helps reduce bacteria, too.

See Also: The #1 Way You're Bringing Germs Into the House

2. Cook meats thoroughly. Ground beef and meat that has been tenderized should be cooked to at least 160 degrees Fahrenheit (use a thermometer to be sure!). "Heat kills bacteria," says Frechman. "Cooking leafy greens for 15 seconds at 160 degrees will also kill E. coli."

3. Avoid eating high-risk foods. Unpasteurized (raw) milk or cheeses, unpasteurized juices (apple cider is a biggie) and undercooked meat. And steer clear of human and animal feces (easier said than done when you don't know who's preparing your food and what their hand-washing habits are!).

4. Don't swallow! When you're in swimming pools, rivers, ponds, streams and backyard "kiddie" pools, don't swallow the water! Some kinds of E. coli cause disease by producing something called Shiga toxin. Infections start when you swallow invisible Shiga toxin-producing E. coli -- in other words, when you get tiny amounts of human or animal feces in your mouth (ew!).

5. Don't cross-contaminate. Clean and sanitize counter tops, cutting boards, utensils, refrigerator shelves and hands after they touch raw meat. Use separate cutting boards for fruits/vegetables and raw proteins, such as chicken, fish or meat."

Related: Is Your Soap Making You Dirtier?

5 Ways to Avoid E. Coli.  As a retired professional nurse, I can totally endorse how important this basic, health skill 101, truly is.  Simple hand washing technique is the number one defense against food born and other types of illness.  NEVER put anything into your mouth or near your nose without washing your hands thoroughly with soap.  Use a paper towel to open a bathroom door, especially in commercial establishments.  Never touch food with dirty hands.   Read the restaurant's sanitary ratings posted on their windows before choosing to eat there.

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