Here’s What You Need to Know About Fresh Produce and E. Coli

E. Coli is known for the debilitating sickness it can cause. Unsurprisingly, when the bacteria show up in food, people worry. Although the fear is understandable, there’s also confusion and misinformation surrounding E. Coli. Today, we look at E. Coli, produce, and the precautions you should take to avoid getting sick.

What is E. Coli?

E. Coli is a type of bacteria that lives in some animals’ (including humans’) intestines. Although most strains of E. Coli are harmless, some can cause physical problems, including diarrhea, pneumonia, difficulty breathing, and urinary tract infections.

One strain of E. Coli, called O157:H7, is especially bad. It can cause acute kidney failure in children, and it also causes extreme intestinal problems, fever, internal bleeding, and seizures. This strain causes an estimated 31 deaths in the United States each year. When you’ve heard of an E. Coli scare, this is probably the strain you’re hearing about.

You can get E. Coli from:

  • Eating raw meat.
  • Eating unpasteurized dairy products.
  • Eating contaminated fresh produce.
  • Swimming in bodies of water, like lakes or ponds.
  • Touching contaminated animals. 

E. Coli and Your Salad

Salads are supposed to be good for you, right? The recent E. Coli outbreak in romaine lettuce may suggest otherwise. However, don’t give up on your greens just yet.

Because E. Coli lives in the intestines of animals, meat is much more likely to be contaminated than vegetables. In fact, most vegetables become contaminated when they have come in contact with raw meat or animal waste. 

For example, when an animal with E. Coli defecates in the field where the vegetable grows, the vegetables may become contaminated. Intense rain can also push fecal matter into fields. Modern farming techniques and the separation of animals and fields make this cross-contamination rare, but it unfortunately still happens.  

When food is contaminated, the FDA lets the public know about it on their website. They track, investigate, and try to remedy the problem. Tracing food back to the correct farm is challenging. However, new tracking techniques have made this easier and faster. For example, the Produce Traceability Initiative improves and standardizes such techniques. 

E. Coli Precautions

Scientists are still evaluating how the recent E. Coli outbreak in romaine lettuce from Yuma, Arizona, occurred. Although we do not source any lettuce from this region, we follow strict guidelines to protect all of our produce. In fact, our restaurants continue to receive good and excellent ratings from the Larimer County Restaurant and Grocery Store Inspections

Here are few precautions you can take at home to keep yourself safe.

  1. Keep your kitchen clean. Wash all of your fruits and vegetables, even if they come prewashed. Also, make sure to regularly clean your kitchen counters, sink, and utensils.
  2. Regularly wash your hands with hot water and soap. This is especially important after you’ve come in contact with animals and after you’ve cooked meat.
  3. Don’t mix cutting boards, knives, counter space, or any other object when you are cooking with meat.
  4. Separate your meat at the bottom of your refrigerator, so that it doesn’t come in contact with other food.
  5. Cook all your meat and eggs thoroughly. Use a thermometer to make sure all of your food is cooked the recommended amount.
  6. Don’t leave your food at room temperature. Instead, put groceries away quickly and store leftovers immediately after eating.

At Spoons Soups, Salads and Sandwiches, our salads are made with thoughtful, fresh ingredients. Give one a try. You won’t be disappointed! Visit our menu to learn what we’re serving today.