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What is E-coli and how to prevent it

Want to know what is E. coli bacteria or looking for E. coli prevention tips to protect against E. coli symptoms of food poisoning? Get the answers here.

Have you ever asked “what is E. coli” or wondered how you can prevent it? Follow these tips on identifying E. coli symptoms and causes to help prevent infection.

What is E. coli bacteria?

First things first, it’s important to understand exactly what is E. coli bacteria before we look at diagnosing food poisoning as a result of it.

E.coli is actually a type of bacteria that commonly lives in the digestive tract of animals – including humans. You probably have some harmless strains of the bacteria in your intestines right now! It’s the harmful strain, known as E. coli (STEC), that is responsible for food poisoning.

What are the most common E. coli causes?

The harmful strain of E. coli causes infection and food poisoning symptoms when contracted via the ingestion of contaminated food or water. This contamination is commonly found on:

  • Milk and dairy produce
  • Undercooked or raw meat; particularly beef
  • Vegetables contaminated by faecal matter of an infected animal
  • Untreated ground water

What are E. coli symptoms of food poisoning?

Although an E. coli infection should treat itself over time, it is still important to know what normal E. coli symptoms of food poisoning are so that you can identify any severe cases.

Normal symptoms include:

  • Abdominal cramps
  • Diarrhoea
  • Fever and vomiting

Normal recovery from an E. coli infection should take no more than 10 days.

Important! E. coli infections can cause complications and life-threatening diseases in vulnerable people such as children or the elderly. Always seek medical help if symptoms include bloody diarrhoea or severe cramps, if they last longer than normal, or if you’re concerned for any reason.

 E.coli prevention tips: home cleaning advice

While you may not be able to avoid all of the common E. coli causes, there are things you can do to kill the harmful bacteria.

  • Wash kitchen countertops: use a spray cleaner like Cif or a dishwashing liquid like Vim and hot water to clean surfaces before and after preparing food. This should be done for chopping boards too.
  • Use separate items for cooked and raw food: this helps prevent cross contamination and applies to chopping boards and cooking utensils.
  • Wash food before cooking: this is particularly important for vegetables which may not be something you commonly associate with E. coli infections.
  • Cook food thoroughly: this is about more than just making sure there is no pink meat left. E. coli is heat sensitive so cooking food to at least 70°C (in the thickest part) could help kill the bacteria.
  • Store food separately: keep your food in sealed containers and store raw and cooked foods separately. Raw meats should be stored on bottom shelves to avoid potential drips.
  • Avoid drinking untreated water: boil your tap water for at least one minute before use drinking it or using it to rinse fruit, vegetables and other produce you intend to eat raw.
  • Follow good personal hygiene: wash your hands before and after handling food; particularly raw foods. Always wash your hands after using the bathroom, after changing nappies or after coming into contact with sick, diarrhoea, or livestock.

As you can see, E. coli prevention is a lot about following basic food preparation and hygiene protocols. Make sure you follow these tips at all times and identify any potential E. coli symptoms as soon as possible so that you can prevent the spread of infection within your family.

Key steps:

  • Wash utensils between all uses and do not leave them to set out on the counter
  • Wash your hands between food preparation and food consumption
  • Keep raw meat separate from cooked meat to avoid common coli causes
  • Clean kitchen and bathroom surfaces and cooking utensils with strong cleaners like Cif and Vim

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E.coli prevention can be best exercised by practicing hygiene that is stringent, disciplined, and routine. This means sanitising food preparation areas, washing hands, and making sure everything is cooked properly.