TIP OF THE DAY: How To Avoid E.Coli In Your Food | The Nibble Webzine Of Food Adventures - The Nibble Webzine Of Food Adventures TIP OF THE DAY: How To Avoid E.Coli In Your Food | The Nibble Webzine Of Food Adventures
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TIP OF THE DAY: How To Avoid E.Coli In Your Food

In the U.S. in 2006, a fierce strain of E. coli in spinach and lettuce caused some 200 cases of illness and three deaths.

Today, the E. coli outbreak in Germany is dominating headlines: thousands of Europeans taken ill, hundreds in intensive care units and worse, 35 dead as of this writing—from eating raw bean sprouts.

Most strains of E. coli are benign. According to an article in The New York Times, our produce supply is very safe. Professor Gad Frankel, of Imperial College London, notes that the chance of getting E. coli poisoning from raw vegetables is about the same as winning the lottery. Yet, says Dr. Frankel, some people do win the lottery and some people do get sick from E. coli.

If you cook your food, E. coli isn’t a problem: Heating kills the bacteria, which sit on the surface of the food. That’s why the USDA recommends that hamburgers be cooked to medium. Hamburger and other ground meats are more susceptible to contamination since there are so many internal surfaces that aren’t directly exposed to the heat.

Photo by Tamago915 | Wikimedia.

Similarly, cooking vegetables also kills the bacteria. But rinsing them prior to eating them raw does not. Salads, for example, can potentially harbor E. coli.

Don’t use this as an excuse to avoid eating salad. If you are concerned and still want to eat raw vegetables, here’s a tip:

  • Soak the produce in diluted dish soap or in a bowl of water with a few drops of bleach for 20 minutes, before rinsing and eating. It may sound a bit oddball, but just as with washing dishes, you won’t taste the soap after rinsing.
    There are expensive industrial testing kits, but even for the wealthy, the soap solution is faster.


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