For the past few months, it seems every week there is another recall. There is no particular food that has been singled out. The recalls have been from companies who produce frozen fruit pops all the way to the most recent beef recall from a Cargill Meat Solutions Corp. out of Pennsylvania. There was also a recall earlier this month from Valley Meat Inc. They stated they were “voluntarily recalling approximately 1,000,000 pounds of ground beef products because of the potential for E. coli O157:H7 contamination. The recall extends only to the products listed below that were produced between October 2, 2009 and January 12, 2010 and were sold in California, Texas, Oregon, Arizona and internationally.”
Although, the US has very high standards for foods and the safety of their public, human error is always a factor. E. Coli is a common bacteria found in the stool (feces) of humans and animals and the spread of it is easier than most might want to imagine. Contaminated water seen in swimming pools, creeks, lakes, and irrigation channels can also carry E. Coli. Swallowing it is an easy way to contract the bacteria.
E. Coli or Escherichia Coli is also found on the surface of many kinds of food, including raw milk and dairy products, raw fruits and vegetables, and unpasterized juices. Ground meats are especially able to carry the bacteria because the surface of the meat is all throughout the product, making harder to kill when cooked. As for steaks, the surface is flat and obvious so grilling (heating it at least 160 degrees) it will kill the bacteria.
How do you know if you’re having symptoms of food poisoning, E. Coli, and how do you prevent or decrease the chance of developing it?
Symptoms start about 5-7 days after eating the infected food and they include fever, diarrhea (can be bloody), severe stomach cramps, and vomiting. E. Coli has several strains and among those, the bacteria can cause diarrhea, urinary tract (bladder) infections or UTI, pneumonia, and other respiratory infections.
To prevent the spread of e.coli, wash hands regularly, especially after handling raw meat and dairy products. Wash vegetables and fruits before eating them, even if you think they are clean because anyone could have handled them while they were in transport or in the stores.
There is a vaccine in development for E. Coli, but information on its availability is limited.