A new strain of E. coli is killing people in Europe and threatening people in the USA. Here is what you can do to keep E. coli out of your home kitchen.
Wash the bottoms of your vegetables as well as the tops.
Most people hold vegetables under running water to rinse off contamination but forget to the vegetable over and wash the other side.
Keep rough-skinned fruits and vegetables separate from smooth-skinned fruits and vegetables.
Nooks and crannies in the rinds and peels of produce like cantaloupes harbor E. coli that can rub off on other produce. Keep fruit and vegetables with tough outer peels separate from others.
E. coli multiply 10 times faster at 30 degrees C/86 degrees F than they do at 20 degrees C/68 degrees F, and 100 times faster than at 30 degrees C than they do in the refrigerator. Just putting veggies and fruit in the frig as soon as possible greatly reduces contamination.
Remember that some kinds of acidity are good.
Acid in salad dressings kills bacteria. Think vinegar. Acid in your stomach kills bacteria. Don't take antacids before you eat salads. But eat salads because the bitterness in the vegetables stimulates your stomach to secrete digestive juices that kill bacteria.
Fight E. coli from the inside out.
E. coli does not do damage until it reaches your intestines. If it has to compete with friendly bacteria like Lactobacillus, it has fewer opportunities to latch on to the lining of the gut and multiply. Probiotic yogurts (whether they are made with milk or not) and probiotic supplements provide the bacteria that fight E. coli for you. Just be sure you use a product that has live cultures.
And even more ways to prevent E. coli infection include:
Cook hamburger and ground beef thoroughly. Ground meats can turn brown before disease-causing bacteria are killed, so use a digital instant-read meat thermometer to ensure the thickest part of the patty has been heated to at least 160°F. If you do not use a meat thermometer, avoid eating ground meat that is still pink. If you are served a rare hamburger in a restaurant, return the meat and ask that it be reheated and placed on a fresh bun with fresh condiments.
In the kitchen, keep raw meat separate from ready-to-eat foods. Wash utensils, counters, plates, and hands with hot, soapy water after they touch raw meat.
Avoid unpasteurized milk and juices, as well as alfalfa sprouts. Or know your source!
Be sure to wash fruits and vegetables, especially if they are to be eaten raw.
Avoid swallowing lake or pool water while swimming.
Make sure children (or adults) with diarrhea wash their hands thoroughly in warm, soapy water after using the bathroom. Anyone with diarrhea should avoid swimming in a public pool, sharing a bath or shower, and preparing food for others.
Keep fingernails trimmed. Dr. Michael Doyle and his team at the University of Georgia put hamburger contaminated with E. coli under the nails of volunteers. The subjects then washed their hands thoroughly, and the researchers measured how much bacteria was left. They found that volunteers who used nail brushes had the fewest bacteria. However, if the volunteers had long fingernails, even nail brushes weren’t effective for cleaning contamination from the hands.