1) What is E-Coli?
E-Coli is a type of bacteria which is commonly found in the digestive tract of animals; including humans.
Even right now, you probably have some harmless strains of bacteria in your intestines! E-Coli (STEC) is the harmful strain that is responsible for food poisoning.
2) Common Causes of E. Coli?
The harmful strain of E. coli causes infection and food poisoning and is caused due to contaminated food or water. This contamination is commonly found in:
- Milk and dairy products
- Undercooked or raw meat; particularly beef
- Vegetables contaminated by faecal matter of an infected animal
- Untreated groundwater
3) Symptoms of E-Coli?
Although an E-Coli infection should treat itself over time, it is still important for you to identify its symptoms.
Normal symptoms include:
- Abdominal cramps
- 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 to vulnerable people such as children or the elderly. Always seek medical help if symptoms include bloody diarrhoea or severe cramps that last longer than normal.
4) E-Coli Prevention Tips:
While you may not be able to avoid all of the common causes of E-Coli, there are a few measures you can take 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 utensils for cooked and raw food: This helps prevent cross-contamination.
- Wash food before cooking: This is particularly important for vegetables.
- Cook food thoroughly: This is about more than just making sure there is no pink meat left. E. coli is heat sensitive & hence, cooking food to at least 70°C (in the thickest part) could help kill the bacteria.
- Store food separately: Store your raw & cooked food in sealed containers separately. Raw meat should be stored in bottom shelves to avoid potential drips.
- Avoid drinking untreated water: Boil your tap water for at least one minute before drinking or using it to rinse fruits, vegetables and other products you intend to eat raw.
- Follow personal hygiene: Wash your hands before and after handling food; particularly raw foods. Apart from that, always wash your hands after using the bathroom, changing nappies or after coming into contact with sick people or animals.
- As you can see, preventing E-Coli is a lot about following basic hygiene protocols. Make sure you follow these tips every time and also identify any potential E-Coli symptoms as soon as possible so that you can prevent the infection from spreading.
- Wash utensils between all uses and do not leave them to set out on the counter
- Wash your hands during food preparation and food consumption
- Keep raw meat separate from cooked meat
- Clean kitchen and bathroom surfaces and cooking utensils with strong cleaners like Cif and Vim