How to Control Ecoli 0157: H7 in Ready-To-Eat Foods?

What is Escherichia coli 0157: H7?

E. coli 0157: H7 belongs to one of hundreds of stains of bacteria know as Escherichia coli. These bacteria live in the intestines of animals and humans and are found in their feces. E. coli 0157: H7 bacteria are normally transmitted via the fecal-oral route under unsanitary conditions, poor hygienic practices and other cross contamination practices. While most of these bacteria are harmless, E coli 0157: H7 produces a powerful toxin that can cause severe food poisoning. E coli 0157: H7 and are now becoming a public health concern because of its highvalence as a possible cause of contamination of meat and poultry products. The Centers for Disease Control has reported approximately 73,000 cases of infection with E. coli 0157: H7 resulting in 61 deaths per year. There is therefore an eminent need to prevent, reduce and if possible eliminate E. coli by adopting stringent proactive measures as discussed in this present article.

Symptoms caused by E. coli 0157: H7

o Appear 3-4 days after exposure and may last several days.

o Bloody diarrhea.

o Abdominal cramps.

o Occasional vomiting.

o Low grade fever or absent.

o Kidney damage.

o Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome (HUS) in 2-7% of infections involving children under five of age and the elderly.

Diagnosis of illness caused by E. coli 0157: H7

o Clinical history of patient.

o Medical examination by a physician.

o Stool culture specific for E. coli 0157: H7.

o Tests used to confirm HUS include, but not limited to kidney function test, blood clotting factors, blood counts.

Treatment of illness caused by E. coli 0157: H7

o Most persons recover within a few days without any specific treatment.

o Antibiotics may or may not be used. Antibiotics may precipitate kidney complications.

o Drink plenty of fluids.

o Use of oral rehydration solution.

o Blood transfusion and kidney dialysis for HUS.

How is E. coli 0157: H7 spread?

o Eating raw or undercooked meat.

o Using poor sanitized equipment or utensils.

o Poor hygienic practices.

o Poor agricultural practices.

o Unhygienic and unsanitary slaughtering practices.

o Improper hand washing techniques.

o Other sources of cross-contamination.

How to avoid or prevent the spread of E. coli 0157: H7

What can consumers do?

o Become more knowledgeable in food safety.

o Cook all food especially ground beef, steak and hamburger thoroughly. Use a digital instant read thermometer to ensure thorough cooking. The thickest part of the steak or hamburger should be at least 160 ° F. The middle of steaks and beef patties should not be pink and bloody, but should be brown and fluids should be clear.

o Wash hands with hot soapy water for at least 20 sec. after contact with raw meat and before and after changing tasks.

o Use separate cutting boards for raw and processed foods or thoroughly wash and sanitize cutting boards between use and after use.

o Ensure good hygienic practices are followed after using the toilet and when changing diapers, assisting young children or handling pets.

o Clean and sanitize food contact surfaces before, during and after food preparation.

o Wash raw fruits and vegetables thoroughly under running water, soak in chlorine water for 2 minutes and rinse with clean water. Avoid the use of brewed and rotting fruits and vegetables.

o Be sure to use clean plates and utensils for cooked meats – do not use the same ones that were used for raw meat.

o Always thaw food in the refrigerator. If thawed in the microwave, continue the cooking process immediately.

o Buy food and drink from reputable sources only.

o Use only pasteurized milk, juice, nectar, or cider.

o When shopping, pick up cold and refrigerated foods last. Separate and pack raw meats from ready-to-eat foods (lunch meats, produce, bakery items, etc). Transport promptly cold and refrigerated foods on ice or in a cooler. Do not leave these foods in a hot car for more than two hours.

o Promptly refrigerate or freeze these products at home. Refrigerants should be maintained at 40 ° F or below. Use refrigerated ground meat within 1-2 days; frozen meat should be used within 3-4 months for best quality. Store raw meats at the bottom shelve of the refrigerator / freezer so that juices can not drip contaminate onto other foods.

o Do not store raw and ready to eat foods in the same compartment of the freezer or refrigerator. Cross contamination may occur if this practice is done.

What can regulatory agencies do?

o Develop and implement easy accessible educational programs on food safety and safe food handling practices to address the concerns of the entire population at all levels.

o Improve and increase the frequency of inspections of food processing plants.

o Enforce or enact existing laws to reduce the burden of non-compliance and public health risks.
o Increase sampling of meat and meat products at food processing plans to ensure stringent adherence to microbiological standards, chemical standards and other regulatory requirements.

o Develop and implement a data base for surveillance data and corrective actions on all meat and poultry processing plants.

o Develop links to laboratories for fast and efficient detection of pathogens.

o Engage in research into microtechnologies such as nanotechnology that would lead to the development of microdetectors sinceby increasing the accuracy and detection time of common food pathogens.

Resources

o United States Department of Agriculture, Food Safety Inspection Service, Consumer Education and Information – Focus on Ground Beef.

o Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Division of Bacterial and Mycotic Diseases, – Escherichia coli 0157: H7.

o University of Minnesota Extension Service – Preventing Illness from E. coli.

o Minnesota Department of Health, Acute Disease Epidemiology Section – HUS and E. coli 0157: H7 Infection