Protecting against E-Coli
Within the past few weeks, over 40 different Chipotle in the Northwest were temporarily shut down due to an outbreak of E.coli and salmonella. Scientists may have found traces of these microorganisms in the chain’s supply of fresh produce, such as their cilantro, lettuce, onions, and even some of their spices.
While no local restaurants were affected and no one has died from the outbreaks, the situation prompts an important question: How do severe and potentially lethal pathogens come into contact with everyday produce like apples, cucumbers, and tomatoes?
While there are many strains of E.coli, one type in particular – E.coli O157:H7 – causes an array of symptoms ranging from abdominal cramps and pain to vomiting and persistent or even bloody stool. E. coli 0157:H7 can produce powerful toxins that damage the lining of the small intestine.
Potential carriers of E.coli include ground beef and fresh produce. Ground beef, when the cattle is killed and processed, can harbor the E.coli bacteria that was within their intestines. Produce such as vegetables and fruits can harbor this bacteria due to leftover manure that may have been around the fresh produce.
Another way a person could obtain the E.coli bacteria is through contaminated water. Rivers and streams may contain animal or even human waste that could contaminate the water. According to the Center for Disease Control, “Public drinking water systems use various methods of water treatment to provide safe drinking water for their communities,” including: coagulation and flocculation, sedimentation, filtration, and disinfection.
The CDC suggests that if you want to have your own water system in your home you can use household water treatments such as filtration systems, which remove impurities in the water. Water softeners and distillation systems can be used to purify water, as well.
Even though not everything may be contaminated by E.coli, consumers should always make sure to wash off their fresh fruits and vegetables. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.