No vaccine or medication can protect you from E. coli-based illness, though researchers are investigating potential vaccines. To reduce your chance of being exposed to E. coli, avoid risky foods and watch out for cross-contamination.

Risky foods

  • Cook hamburgers until they're 160 F. Hamburgers should be well-done, with no pink showing anywhere in the meat. But color isn't a reliable indicator of whether or not meat is done cooking. Meat — especially if grilled — can brown before it's completely cooked.

    That's why it's important to use a meat thermometer to ensure that meat is heated to at least 160 F (71 C) at its thickest point.

  • Drink pasteurized milk, juice and cider. Any boxed or bottled juice kept at room temperature is likely to be pasteurized, even if the label doesn't say so.
  • Wash raw produce thoroughly. Washing produce won't necessarily get rid of all E. coli — especially in leafy greens, which provide many spots for the bacteria to attach themselves to. Careful rinsing can remove dirt and reduce the amount of bacteria that may be clinging to the produce.

Avoid cross-contamination

  • Wash utensils. Use hot soapy water on knives, countertops and cutting boards before and after they come into contact with fresh produce or raw meat.
  • Keep raw foods separate. This includes using separate cutting boards for raw meat and foods, such as vegetables and fruits. Never put cooked hamburgers on the same plate you used for raw patties.
  • Wash your hands. Wash your hands after preparing or eating food, using the toilet, or changing diapers. Make sure that children also wash their hands before eating, after using the bathroom and after contact with animals.
Aug. 01, 2014

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