Escherichia Coli or E Coli is a nasty form of food poisoning causing abdominal cramping, vomiting, bloody diarrhoea and kidney failure and in some cases can be fatal. E Coli bacteria is found in the gut and faeces of many animals, particularly cattle and so can by caught by coming into contact with infected animals or their faeces, but also by eating contaminated fruit and vegetables, or being in contact with anyone suffering from the illness or drinking or swimming in contaminated water.
Symptoms can take a few days to appear following infection, but can start any time between 1 and 14 days from exposure, then last for up to two weeks.
When preparing food, it’s important to do the following to prevent infection with E Coli:
- Remove any loose soil before storing vegetables and salads
- Wash all vegetables and fruits that will be eaten raw
- Store and prepare raw meat and unwashed vegetables away from ready-to-eat foods
- Do not prepare raw vegetables with utensils that have also been used for raw meat
- Cook all minced meat products, such as burgers and meatballs, thoroughly
The NHS also recommends that to prevent E Coli infection make sure that you:
- Where possible, wash your hands thoroughly with liquid soap in warm running water and dry them completely.
- If in contact with an infected person, make sure that everyone washes their hands, especially if handling clothing or bedding.
- Always wash hands after going to the toilet or changing babies’ nappies, and before preparing or serving food or eating meals. Anyone who has been infected should avoid cooking or preparing food until 48 hours after their symptoms have cleared up.
- Do not share towels or nappy changing mats.
- Wash soiled clothing and bed linen separately from other clothes in a washing machine at the highest temperature possible (e.g. 60°C).
- Wipe down the outside of the washing machine with hot water and detergent after any heavily soiled load. After handling soiled bedclothes or clothing, wash your hands thoroughly.
- Clean toilet seats, toilet flush handles, basin taps, surfaces and toilet door handles at least daily, preferably more often, using hot water and detergent.
- Disinfection sprays and wipes or alcohol-based wipes may be used on toilet seats and other surfaces, but only after any visible soiling has been removed.
- Thick household bleach is highly effective. Dilute one part bleach to every 10 parts water for soiled surfaces and one part bleach to every 100 parts water for other hard surfaces. Ideally, use heavy-duty domestic rubber gloves and disposable cloths for cleaning.
- Dispose of cloths by placing them in a plastic bag, sealing the neck and placing in household waste. Thoroughly wash rubber gloves in hot water and detergent after use, then rinse and allow to dry. Do not clean soiled items in the kitchen.
- Deal with any spillage of faeces immediately. Clean the soiled area with hot water and detergent using heavy-duty domestic rubber gloves. Clean gloves (as above) and wash hands thoroughly.