Food With E Coli

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Food products that contain E. Coli are responsible for approximately 48 million cases of food poisoning, leading to about 7 thousand deaths in the USA alone. Join the fight against E. Coli and learn more about the food you eat!

Food With E Coli

All foods have the potential to make you ill from the bacteria Escherichia coli. Some food sources increase your risk of E. coli, such as the four listed below.

1. Ground Beef

One of the most common foods that can become contaminated with E. coli is ground beef. E. coli from inside of the cow’s intestines can contaminate the meat meant for consumption.

It is also worth noting that ground beef does not only contain meat from cows. Many different animals are used in ground beef production, which increases the risk of E. coli contamination.

Recent Outbreaks

One of the most recent E. coli outbreaks related to ground beef occurred in 2019 across ten states. More than 209 people became ill, and 29 were hospitalized.

Ground Beef Food Safety Tips

  • When preparing ground beef at home, always defrost in the refrigerator.
  • Use a meat thermometer to ensure a safe internal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • When eating in a restaurant, avoid ground beef that is still pink or red in the middle.

2. Fresh Produce

Eating fresh produce offers many health benefits, but not when you unknowingly ingest E. coli. Produce grown in areas near cattle or other meat production facilities can be contaminated with waste runoff.

Even certain types of vegetables are more likely to become contaminated with E. coli. These veggies include romaine and spinach because they can be more challenging to wash correctly and clean.

Recent Outbreaks

E. coli in fresh produce resulted in two recent outbreaks. In 2019, contaminated romaine lettuce caused 167 illnesses and 85 hospitalizations across 27 states. In 2020, a leafy greens outbreak caused 40 illnesses and 20 hospitalizations in 19 states.

Fresh Produce Food Safety Tips

  • Wash or scrub fruits and vegetables even if you do not plan to eat the peel. You could contaminate the interior when slicing.
  • Keep pre-cut fruits and veggies cold.
  • Cooked produce is the safest way to eat them.

3. Unpasteurized Milk

Although unpasteurized milk is not consumed as often as fresh produce or ground beef, it remains a severe threat to those who continue to drink it. According to the CDC, people who drink unpasteurized milk are 840 times more likely to develop a foodborne illness such as E. coli.

According to the FDA, pasteurization is a process that kills harmful bacteria by heating milk to a specific temperature, followed by rapid cooling. Unpasteurized milk does not have any unique health benefits. The CDC does not recommend drinking or consuming dairy products that contain unpasteurized milk.

4. Water

Some water sources may produce E. coli, including groundwater contaminated by human or animal waste. Private wells and municipal water supplies can become infected with E. coli. Fortunately, there have not been any significant outbreaks related to E. coli contaminated water since 2006.

How Do You Get Infected?

You can become infected when you swallow even a small amount of E. coli bacteria. Among the ways this can happen:

  • Ground meat: You eat ground meat that carries E. coli, and the meat wasn’t cooked enough to kill the bacteria. When meat is processed, sometimes bacteria from the animals’ intestines make their way into the meat. This happens more with ground meat because it comes from more than one animal.
  • Untreated milk: You drink unpasteurized milk, which hasn’t been heated to kill bacteria. E. coli can get into the milk from the cow’s udder or from milking equipment.
  • Vegetables and fruit: You might eat fresh vegetables or fruit that’s been tainted by water that has the bacteria. This happens most often when manure from nearby animals mixes with the water supply.
  • Other foods and beverages: You might also get E. coli from unpasteurized fruit juices and yogurt and cheese made from raw milk.
  • Water: You swallow water that contains E. coli, perhaps while swimming in a pool, lake, or pond.
  • Other people: You might get E. coli from another person who has it, such as a child. The bacteria can be passed to you if you clean up after an infected person and then don’t wash your hands really well before you touch your mouth.
  • Animals: It can be found at petting zoos or animal exhibits at fairs.

You can also contaminate food in your own kitchen if you allow a knife or cutting board that has touched uncooked meat (like chicken) to come into contact with food that will be eaten raw (like a salad).

What is E. Coli?

E. coli (Escherichia coli), is a type of bacteria that normally lives in your intestines. It’s also found in the gut of some animals.

Most types of E. coli are harmless and even help keep your digestive tract healthy. But some strains can cause diarrhea if you eat contaminated food or drink fouled water.

While many of us associate E. coli with food poisoning, you can also get pneumonia and urinary tract infections from different types of the bacteria. In fact, 75% to 95% of urinary tract infections are caused by E. coli. E.coli is a normal resident of the bowel, which is how it makes it way to the urinary tract.

Some versions of E. coli make you sick by making a toxin called Shiga. This toxin damages the lining of your intestine. The strains of E. coli that make the toxin are sometimes called STEC, which is short for “Shiga toxin-producing E. coli.”

One especially bad strain, O157:H7, can make you very sick. It causes abdominal cramps, vomiting, and bloody diarrhea. It is the leading cause of acute kidney failure in children. It can also cause life-threatening symptoms such as:

  • Adult kidney failure
  • Fever
  • Bleeding
  • Confusion
  • Seizures

You should get emergency help if you have any of these symptoms.

How Do You Get Infected?

You can become infected when you swallow even a small amount of E. coli bacteria. Among the ways this can happen:

  • Ground meat: You eat ground meat that carries E. coli, and the meat wasn’t cooked enough to kill the bacteria. When meat is processed, sometimes bacteria from the animals’ intestines make their way into the meat. This happens more with ground meat because it comes from more than one animal.
  • Untreated milk: You drink unpasteurized milk, which hasn’t been heated to kill bacteria. E. coli can get into the milk from the cow’s udder or from milking equipment.
  • Vegetables and fruit: You might eat fresh vegetables or fruit that’s been tainted by water that has the bacteria. This happens most often when manure from nearby animals mixes with the water supply.
  • Other foods and beverages: You might also get E. coli from unpasteurized fruit juices and yogurt and cheese made from raw milk.
  • Water: You swallow water that contains E. coli, perhaps while swimming in a pool, lake, or pond.
  • Other people: You might get E. coli from another person who has it, such as a child. The bacteria can be passed to you if you clean up after an infected person and then don’t wash your hands really well before you touch your mouth.
  • Animals: It can be found at petting zoos or animal exhibits at fairs.

You can also contaminate food in your own kitchen if you allow a knife or cutting board that has touched uncooked meat (like chicken) to come into contact with food that will be eaten raw (like a salad).



Symptoms

You’ll probably start to feel ill 2 to 5 days after you’ve taken in the E. coli bacteria. The most common symptoms are:

  • Abdominal cramps
  • Diarrhea, which may be bloody
  • Nausea
  • Constant fatigue

You may not have a fever. If you do, it may be slight.

Healthy people infected with E. coli usually feel better within a week. But some people have a serious complication called hemolytic uremic syndrome, which affects the kidneys. This is more likely to happen to older people and children.

Treatments

The only way your doctor can know for sure if you have an E. coli infection is to send a sample of your stool to a lab to be analyzed.

Fortunately, the infection usually goes away on its own.

For some types of E.coli associated with diarrhea, such as the watery travelers’ diarrhea, antibiotics can shorten the length of time you have symptoms and might be used in moderately severe cases.

But if you have fever or bloody diarrhea or if your doctor suspects Shiga toxin-producing E. coli, antibiotics should not be taken. They can actually increase the production of Shiga toxin and worsen your symptoms.

It’s important to rest and get plenty of fluids to replace what your body is losing through vomiting or diarrhea.

Don’t take over-the-counter medications that fight diarrhea. You don’t want to slow down your digestive system, because that will delay your body’s shedding of the infection.

When you start to feel better, stick to low-fiber foods at first such as:

  • Crackers
  • Toast
  • Eggs
  • Rice

Dairy products and foods that are high in fat or fiber can make your symptoms worse.

Prevention

One of the most important things you can do to protect yourself and your family against E. coli is wash your hands, particularly in these situations:

  • Before you prepare food
  • Before preparing bottles or food for infants or toddlers
  • Before touching anything, such as a pacifier, that goes into a small child’s mouth.
  • After you’ve used the bathroom or changed a diaper
  • After you’ve had contact with animals, even your own pets
  • After handling raw meat


You can also prevent E. coli infections by being careful about the foods that carry the greatest chance of contamination:

  • Cook hamburgers until they’re 160 F inside.
  • Drink only pasteurized milk, juice, and cider.
  • Wash all of your produce before you eat it. Be especially careful to get dirt off leafy greens such as lettuce and spinach.

In your kitchen, a couple of simple rules will help keep you safe:

Wash: Clean knives, counters, and cutting boards with hot, soapy water after raw meat has touched them.

Keep raw and cooked separate: Use different cutting boards for food that you eat raw, such as vegetables and fruit. Don’t put cooked meat back on the same plate you used for raw meat without washing the plate first.

When you’re swimming, try not to swallow the water, whether it’s a pool, a lake, or the ocean. It may be tainted with E. coli from feces.

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