After nearly a month of warnings about Arizona-grown romaine lettuce contaminated with E. coli, the Centers for Disease Control announced that it is safe to eat once again. As of May 15, the outbreak had infected 172 people across the country.
What is E. coli?
E. coli (also known as Escherichia coli) is a type of bacteria naturally present in the intestines of both humans and animals. But when E. coli contaminates food, it can lead to serious illness.
Exposure to E. coli can lead to a variety of symptoms, including vomiting, diarrhea, urinary tract infections, and stomach cramping. Most people get better within a week, but in some cases, it can be life-threatening; if you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, make an appointment with your doctor.
How can you protect yourself?
E. coli can be transmitted by water or food containing small particles of feces contaminated with the bacteria – some forms can be harmless, but others can lead to infection.
The romaine lettuce E. coli outbreak may be over for now, but here are a few tips to make sure you’re practicing good food safety and reducing your risk for foodborne illness.
- Practice good hygiene: Wash your hands every time you leave the restroom as well as whenever you start cooking or begin working with a new ingredient.
- Wash your produce thoroughly: Run fresh fruits and vegetables under water to clean.
- Cook food properly: Consuming undercooked foods can increase the risk of E. coli infection. Cook meats and poultry thoroughly and avoid raw eggs and raw dairy.
- Keep your workspace clean: Clean your counter space before you begin cooking and disinfect any areas that might have come into contact with raw meat, eggs, or dairy. Be sure any utensils, cutting boards, and pans are clean before using.
When eating out, choose restaurants that look clean – bathrooms should be properly attended to, tables should be wiped down, and serveware and barware should be clean. Also, employees should be wearing gloves when touching food, hair should be pulled back, and uniforms should appear reasonably clean. You can also check the website or contact the Health Department in your area to learn about a particular restaurant’s inspection results.
To keep an eye on the latest recalls and food safety news in the United States, check here.