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Posts Tagged ‘Escherichia coli’

A former student said, “I learned a lot about sanitation from you.”

I gave a puzzled look and said, “But I didn’t teach that course to your class.”

“Oh, yes you did. Every time we walked into that kitchen you said, ‘Wash your hands.’”

True. I didn’t teach the course, but I did teach the practice. Clean hands are important, but even that isn’t enough to protect your family from foodborne illnesses.  Germs accumulate on unsuspecting surfaces. While you may scrub your sink and clean the counters—even sanitize them, germs lurk in less obvious places.

The non-profit science organization, NSF International, recruited twenty families to check fourteen kitchen items for four types of microorganisms related to foodborne illness: E coli, salmonella, yeast and mold, and listeria. All items tested positive for yeast and mold. E. coli and salmonella were found in thirty-six percent of all items, and listeria was present in fourteen percent of the items tested.

Items having the most pathogens, in order of frequency, included:

  • Refrigerator water dispenser. That handy gadget frequently handled and rarely cleaned, ranked number one on the naughty chart of germ haven. Dispensers may develop mold and yeast that can cause allergic reactions and respiratory ailments.
  • Rubber spatulas. Unless molded into one piece, spatulas will harbor germs under the scraper blade. Incidences of E. coli, and yeast and mold have been reported. Take apart and clean in the dishwasher or scrub with hot soapy water.
  • Blender gaskets. Many believe the upper jar container is adequately cleaned when put into the dishwasher without taking apart. Not so. The blade and gasket may harbor salmonella, E. coli, and yeast and mold that cake around and under the blade. For effective sanitation, remove the blade and gasket and scrub with hot soapy water or place individual pieces into the dishwasher.
  • Refrigerator vegetable compartment. Produce can transmit  bugs. Mold and yeast accumulate rapidly from deteriorating fruits and vegetables. Salmonella, listeria (think cantaloupe) may be present on fresh produce. Clean the compartment monthly or more often if needed.
  • Refrigerator ice dispenser. These are especially susceptible to yeast and mold and can be harmful for those with allergies. At least monthly turn off the ice maker, empty the ice from the ice bin, and wash the bin with dish soap and warm water. Occasionally wash the system with vinegar, rinse thorough, and toss the first ice cubes.
  • Refrigerator meat compartment. Fresh meats can be disasters waiting to happen. They are prone to E. coli, salmonella, plus yeast and molds. Keep meats away from other foods to prevent contamination. For both fruit and vegetable compartments and meat compartments, wash with warm water with one to two tablespoons baking soda per gallon of water.

Other likely culprits to spread foodborne illnesses include can openers and food storage containers with rubber seals. Place in the dishwasher or clean thoroughly with hot soapy water after using.

Remember the areas in your kitchen that often get less attention yet may hide pathogens. Keep everyone safe with a little precaution and extra cleaning effort. Don’t make your family sick.

For a great visual see http://www.nsf.org/consumer/newsroom/pdf/where_germs_are_hiding_infographic.pdf

For more information see http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-204_162-57576902/where-are-germs-hiding-in-your-kitchen-study-finds-surprising-results/

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Shortly after the deadly foodborne illness outbreak in Europe, I attended a catered lunch at a conference. As I bit into my sandwich, I detected the distinct crunch and flavor of sprouts. Was this sandwich safe?

News was abuzz about the European outbreak—and rightfully so. Researchers attributed the cause of death for more than forty people to Escherichia coli (E.coli) in bean sprouts. The bacteria infected at least four U.S. travelers to Germany and caused the death of an elderly Arizona man.

E. coli and Salmonella outbreaks occur more often throughout the world than you may think. Many cases go undiagnosed because symptoms mimic other health problems. Typical signs include fever, diarrhea, and abdominal cramps. Symptoms may occur twelve to seventy-two hours after ingestion of the tainted food and last from four to seven days. If the bacteria spread from the intestines to the bloodstream and other body sites, death can result unless promptly and appropriately treated. Those most susceptible are seniors, young children, and individuals with compromised immune systems.

Why are sprouts the culprit? Sprouts grow in a warm, humid environment, the same ideal conditions needed for bacterial growth. Unlike other raw fruits and vegetables, washing sprouts before eating may not help. Bacteria can cling to the surface of sprout seeds and grow inside the sprouts as well as outside.

Should you eat sprouts? Although the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) established guidelines for suppliers of sprouts, safety is not guaranteed, and they remain potentially hazardous. In 2009 and earlier years, the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended consumers avoid raw sprouts. Consuming organically grown sprouts is even more risky. Researchers linked the contaminated sprouts in Europe to an organic farm in Germany. To elude this foodborne illness stay away from uncooked sprouts. Better yet, choose other healthy foods with less contamination risk.

 Reference: CDC Median Relations:
Sprouts: Not a Healthy Food for Everyone. http://www.cdc.gov/media/pressrel/r990809.htm

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