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Bacteria and produce: The latest E. Coli outbreak in U.S.

January 12, 2018

You may or may not have heard, but an E. Coli outbreak was recently announced in the U.S. and Canada. So far, the E. Coli outbreak has killed 2 people and has left more than 50 sick.

 

U.S. officials have not named a source to the outbreak yet, but officials in Canada are suspecting that it may be romaine lettuce. The victims reported eating romaine lettuce at home and pre-made salads found a grocery stores, restaurants, and fast food restaurants.

 

Generally speaking, lettuce is more likely to be contaminated by bacteria than other produce, and Consumer Reports warns people against consuming lettuce (either fresh or in pre-made salads) until the source has been confirmed. Unfortunately, this includes any lettuce that may be in your fridge today.

 

While we have previously discussed proper food safety techniques (including washing produce), experts warn that washing produce will not remove E. Coli and other bacteria. This is especially true of leafy greens such as lettuce. This is because bacteria have the ability to cling to the surfaces of leafy greens and get stuck in tiny crevices.

 

E. Coli specifically can even burrow into the produce, leaving surface washing especially ineffective. The only effective method of killing E. Coli is by cooking produce. Since lettuce doesn't stand up to cooking, this method will not help.

 

What are the symptoms of E. Coli infection?

 

To better prepare yourself, you may want to be able to identify the symptoms of an E. Coli infection.  They are:

  • Mild dehydration

  • Loss of appetite

  • Malaise

  • Fever of 100 F to 101 F

  • Diarrhea that is often bloody

  • Stomach cramps

  • Vomitting

  • Nausea

Symptoms typically present themselves 3 to 4 days after exposure to E. Coli. Visit your doctor immediately if you have any of the symptoms. You may be admitted to the hospital.

 

 

 

 

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