What is e coli?
E coli (Escherichia Coli) is a bacterium which can be found in the lower intestine of most warm blooded life forms, including humans. Most e coli traits have no effect and show no signs of being present. These make up part of the collection of micro-organisms that exist within the human digestive tract and, situated where they are, pose no health problem. They can have a mutually positive effect. This non-harmful coexistence is, currently, not fully understood. These bacteria that are known to be beneficial to the human host are referred to as normal microbiota.
The problems start when material containing these, otherwise, useful bacteria become mixed with foods or liquids. If this is consumed and ingested or allowed to have access to areas of the body that are normally devoid of any bacteria (sterile), then these bacteria multiply by division. This can only happen through poor hygiene standards that allow faecal matter to interject with foods before consumption. It can also have a serious effect if water supplies are contaminated with the same material.
E coli is known to be one of worst strains of bacteria that can easily follow a route that travels from waste to contaminating food and water. At the time of ingesting e coli bacteria there is no knowledge of any contamination and the incubation period will, silently, begin.
What are the E coli symptoms?
You will start to know all about it between 1 to 5 days after ingesting food or water that has been contaminated with E coli bacteria. You will experience one or all of the symptoms described here:
Sudden severe watery diarrhea with gas.
Loss of appetite
Vomiting in some cases
These problems can last a few days or more than a week.
Severe symptoms include:
Blood in the urine
Reduced urine output
If you experience any of these then you must consult a doctor.
There is nothing good about any of this so we must do everything possible to stop it from starting.
How do you get E Coli?
Everyone can play a big part in keeping this problem down. Before we do anything with food we must wash our hands. Don’t just do a quick swish to ‘save time’, think about the long time it would take to get over an infection. Give your hands a good scrub, get between the fingers and thumbs like you mean business. E coli bacteria are very hardy and will survive on surfaces for weeks. A low level infestation can cause a lot of trouble.
Then there is food handling. Go for over-kill and wash your hands at every opportunity. Assume that the bacteria is all around you even if it isn’t but probably is.
All foods have the potential of carrying something that’s bad for you.
One of the dodgy foods is cold salads. If you are travel abroad somewhere, maybe in a hot country, be suspicious of cold salad. I’ve heard some holiday-ruining stories from people who have gone down with stomach poisoning because of this. Play it safe and have something hot. You aren’t in their kitchen seeing what’s going on but if there is anything lurking, food that is piping hot will be your safest bet.
If you are preparing a salad lunch for yourself and for guests, wash the leaves thoroughly. Take off the outside two leaves because someone else has been handling it and cut away any surface area that’s been exposed to the dirt of the world especially the stalk. Open out the leaves and drop them into bowl of water. Fill the bowl with water and allow to run over for a while, this will rinse and reduce any contamination that may be there.
Wash other salad vegetables, cucumbers and tomatoes, under the cold tap. Give it all a really good rinse.
The biggest risk, by far, has to be from meat. Any meat poses a risk but poultry appears to be the worst. This is probably because during the processing stage there are more opportunities for contamination. There is more handling involved with a chicken than compared to larger beef carcases.
Whatever meat you chose treat it as guilty until proven innocent. If it is frozen, ensure that it has thawed fully before cooking.
Prepare the space that you will be using before you start. Don’t involve water at this stage as it may flick or splash around, keep it dry. When you do start preparing the meat for cooking, don’t allow any interruptions. If the phone rings, let it ring. Dedicate the time that it takes to finish what you are doing. That way you wont touch anything and risk spread of contamination.
When you are finished, clean all surfaces without splashing and, of course, wash hands. Use a disinfectant on hands and on the work surfaces. Don’t forget to give the same treatment to utensils, knives etc., be sure to rinse well, after. The cooking times for meat must be observed. Refer to a cookbook cooking chart, this will give you the time needed for the weight of meat that you have.
How else can we prevent infection?
Store raw meats away from all other foods. If it’s in the fridge put it down on the lowest shelf so there’s nothing beneath it to become contaminated.
Don’t defrost meats near where you prepare other foods.
Much better to defrost in the bottom of the fridge.
Place cooked meat left-overs in the fridge immediately after carving.
Understand that there is a risk if you drink raw milk even if you are aware of the source. Safer to drink pasteurised.
Don’t prepare food if you have diarrhea.
Finally, wash hands regularly and stay well!
Image source: en. wikipedia.org
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