Thursday, January 26, 2012

A Review of What E. Coli is and How to Prevent Infection
The abbreviated E. Coli stands for Escherichia (named after a German physician ) Coli (pertaining to the colon) and the Mosby Medical Dictionary defines it as "...a bacteria...normally present in the intestines...." In other words, all humans and animals have E. coli as the normal flora within their intestines which explains why it is the number one cause of Urinary Tract Infections (UTI). The term "Flora" simply means a living organism occurring or adapted for living in a particular environment, such as your intestinal tract. E. coli has also been pegged as the main cause of "traveler's diarrhea."
It is dangerous when large colonies of E. coli are ingested and then enter the bloodstream. Children and those with weakened immune systems are most at risk for serious illness or death.
The best way to prevent E. coli infection is to:
  • Wash hands thoroughly after using the restroom or changing a diaper.
  • Wash hands before eating.
  • Wash hands after working in soil.
  • Cook meat to an internal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Do not thaw at room temperature.
  • Disinfect counters and cutting boards.
  • Designate separate cutting boards for meat and produce.
  • Do not leave milk, eggs, or left-overs out for too long, especially during the summer.
  • Rinse produce in a colander in a clean sink.
  • Be aware that unpasteurized milk may contain E. coli.
  • Be alert to food recalls.
  • See your doctor immediately if you have severe cramping, uncontrolled diarrhea, bloody stools or simply suspect that you have been infected.
  • This is by no means a complete list. Feel free to add your own common sense practices.
Finding the source of an E. coli outbreak is not easy and takes time. Patients reporting symptoms must complete a week-long food recall and then it needs to be analyzed and investigated.
It may appear that America is being bombarded with way too many food recalls, but we actually have some of the strictest standards compared to other countries.
• Do those standards need to be reviewed and improved periodically? Yes.
• Do we need more manpower to enforce these standards? Yes.
• Does having some of the best standards mean we shouldn't be responsible consumers? Certainly not. This is why we have some the best consumers in the world too.
Americans, for the most part, are demanding safer food practices and they want to know what is in their food and why it's there. This is all part of the checks and balances that help keep our food harvesting, packaging, and distribution accountable.
It's a good practice to periodically review food borne illness and how to prevent it.

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