Fitness Facts: How to prevent E. coli
By Lily Limon
Family Nurse Practitioner (Certified)
The recent food-related recalls in the United States include the contamination of food products with E. coli.
The CDC released an alert stating, “CDC, USDA-FSIS, and several states are investigating an outbreak of E. coli O103 infections from ground beef. Handle ground beef safely and cook it thoroughly to prevent illness. If you have symptoms of E. coli (severe stomach cramps, bloody diarrhea, vomiting), talk to your health care provider.”
The most vulnerable are the elderly and very young children, people with weaker immune systems and individuals who travel to countries where this is common. Only a minimal percentage of those infected will get a complicating life-threatening complication that causes a type of kidney failure.
So, what is E. coli and how do I avoid the nasty little bacteria in my food?
Escherichia coli, or commonly known E. coli, are small bacteria commonly found it the intestine of humans and animals. They also are found environmentally, which leads to food and food preparation.
Some strains that live in our intestines are harmless and are a normal part of our digestive system. However, their more ruthless E. coli cousins – which have diarrhea-producing toxins in them (STEC-Shiga toxin-producing E. coli and ETEC-enterotoxigenic E. coli) – are responsible for the havoc caused in recent food recalls because of their presence in contaminated food.
Prevention is the best way to avoid this potentially deadly organism. Prevention is best medicine.
The CDC recommends the following steps:
- Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and running water.
- Follow the four steps to food safety when preparing food: clean, separate, cook and chill.
- Use a food thermometer to make sure meat has reached a safe minimum cooking temperature:
- Cook ground beef, pork and lamb to an internal temperature of at least 160 degrees F (70 degrees C).
- Insert food thermometer into the side of the patty, to the center, to check.
- Cook beef steaks and roasts to an internal temperature of at least 145 degrees F (62.6 degrees C) and allow to rest for three minutes after you remove meat from the grill or stove.
- Check temperature in the thickest part of steaks or roasts.
- Prevent cross-contamination by thoroughly washing hands, counters, cutting boards and utensils with soap and water after they touch raw meat.
- Do not drink untreated water or swallow water when swimming or playing in lakes, ponds, streams, swimming pools and backyard “kiddie” pools.
- Don’t eat raw dough or batter.
- Drink pasteurized milk and juices.
- Take precautions with food and water when traveling abroad.
You can’t tell whether meat is safely cooked by looking at its color.
Problem: One in four burgers turns brown before it has reached the safe internal temperature of 160 degrees F.
Solution: Use a food thermometer to check that it’s safe to eat.
We hope this was helpful information for you. We are here to assist in any way at Canyon Health and Wellness Center if the symptoms listed above have you thinking you have ingested any contaminated food products.
Reference: CDC (2019). E. coli and food safety. National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases. Retrieved from: https://www.cdc.gov/features/ecoliinfection/index.html.