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E. coli and Produce

Melissa Dunlap is a writer, editor and blogger specializing in lifestyle communications. Fueled by curiosity, and a tad too much coffee, Melissa enjoys dissecting current trends for the modern woman. When she's not having dance parties w...

How E. coli bacteria ends up in food and how to prevent any risks to your health.

The recent outbreak of E. coli bacteria in Europe has already been linked to 16 deaths, causing a frightening situation for anyone who eats fresh produce daily. Here in the states, the risk of becoming ill from deadly cucumbers is slim to none, but you may be wondering, how does E. coli get into produce?


The recent outbreak of E. coli bacteria in Europe has already been linked to 16 deaths, causing a frightening situation for anyone who eats fresh produce daily. Here in the states, the risk of becoming ill from deadly cucumbers is slim to none, but you may be wondering, how does E. coli get into produce?

Although the deadly cucumbers, as they've been called, were originally thought to have been imported into Germany from Spain, but now the source of the bacteria is unknown. The U.S. does import produce from overseas during different seasons, but this time of year is America's growing season, so most produce found in stores is grown in our country. No deadly cucumbers are being imported.

When you think of E. coli contamination, it's generally linked to hamburger, but it can affect produce as well. Despite USDA controls, contamination happens in the U.S. occasionally. You may remember the E. coli tainted spinach responsible for over 200 deaths in 2006.

E. coli, short for Escherichia coli, is a type of bacteria commonly found in the intestines of animals and humans. Most often when the bacteria comes in touch with meat, it's during the butchering process. If intestines are cut open and the contents touch the meat, contamination is possible. For vegetables, contamination can occur when the edible parts of veggies come in touch with animal or human feces. And this isn't only limited to commercially grown produce. Manure used for fertilizing seems to be an obvious source, but (nasty as it sounds) when nature calls for workers picking vegetables, they may just go where they stand.

E. coli is out there, and it can be deadly, especially for those with weaker immune systems. The average healthy person can get very sick, but usually will not die from it. Protect yourself by washing fruits and vegetables thoroughly before eating them raw. If you're still concerned, make sure all veggies you eat are cooked. The heat will kill bacteria.
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