How can I tell if a food is contaminated with E. coli?

Answer From Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D.

Unfortunately you can't tell whether a food is contaminated with Escherichia coli (E. coli) by the way it looks, smells or tastes. Although most types of E. coli bacteria are harmless, certain strains can cause serious foodborne illness.

Foods that have been linked to E. coli include beef, sprouts, spinach, lettuce, ready-to-eat salads, fruit, raw milk, and raw flour and cookie dough.

To protect yourself from E. coli infection and other foodborne illnesses, follow basic food safety guidelines:

  • Wash your hands, utensils and kitchen surfaces with hot, soapy water before and after preparing or eating food.
  • Rinse fruits and vegetables thoroughly; scrub fruits and vegetables that have a firm surface with a vegetable brush while rinsing.
  • Keep raw foods, especially meat and poultry, away from ready-to-eat foods.
  • Refrigerate or freeze perishable foods promptly.
  • Avoid unpasteurized juices, ciders and dairy products.
  • Don't eat raw dough or batter.
  • Don't drink untreated water from lakes or streams.
  • Cook foods thoroughly. Use a thermometer to check the temperature.
    • Beef, pork, lamb and veal steaks, chops and roasts: 145 F (63 C)
    • Ground meat (other than poultry): 160 F (71 C)
    • Poultry: 165 F (74 C)
    • Leftovers and casseroles: 165 F (74 C)
Jan. 29, 2020 See more Expert Answers

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