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E. coli: Escherichia coli 0157:H7, E. coli 0157:H7 (cont.)

How can I protect myself from getting E. coli 0157:H7?

There usually are several outbreaks of food poisoning every year due to E. coli. A recent outbreak occurred in a restaurant chain located in two states (Washington and Oregon - the chain Chipolte, decided to temporarily shut down 43 locations because of about 22 people developing the infection. This is Chipolte's third outbreak in one year. Companies need to follow strict guidelines for food preparation. The following guidelines on preventing E. coli 0157:H7 are recommended by the CDC:

  1. Wash hands thoroughly after using the bathroom or changing diapers and before preparing or eating food. Wash hands after contact with animals or their environments (at farms, petting zoos, fairs, even your own pets in your own yard).
  2. Cook meats thoroughly. Ground beef and meat that has been needle-tenderized should be cooked to a temperature of at least 160 F/70 C. It's best to use a thermometer, as meat color is not a very reliable indicator of "doneness."
  3. Avoid raw milk, unpasteurized dairy products, and unpasteurized juices (like fresh apple cider).
  4. Avoid swallowing water when swimming or playing in lakes, ponds, streams, swimming pools, and backyard "kiddie" pools.
  5. Prevent cross contamination in food preparation areas by thoroughly washing hands, counters, cutting boards, and utensils after they come in contact with raw meat.

One of the major sources of outbreaks is hamburger meat contaminated with E. coli 0157:H7. Such infections have been termed "hamburger disease". Many authors recommend that hamburgers ordered in a restaurant should be "medium or well done", with no pink hamburger meat visible in the middle of the burger. Any "pink" hamburger meat should be cooked until brown to reduce the chance that viable E. coli are still present.

In addition, any food or liquid involved in a recall due to possible E. coli contamination should be disposed of immediately. In 2010, the FDA recalled several productions of beef, including material put into dry pet foods due to contamination with this organism.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/6/2015
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