These Everyday Foods Are Often Contaminated With E. Coli — Avoid Them at All Costs

Shiga toxin-producing E. coli is a very dangerous bacteria that continues to find its way into all manner of food we eat and is the culprit of many illnesses across the globe.

Take a look at some of the most common foods affected by E. coli contamination. At the end of this article, we will tell you how you can prevent an infection and what you should do if you think you’re at risk. If you aren’t vigilant, the consequences could be dire.

Sprouts

Mung bean sprouts

Sprouts are one of the most common E. coli ridden foods. | JOHANNES EISELE/AFP/Getty Images

Sprouts are an extremely risky food for E. coli outbreaks. So much so, many stores don’t carry the green anymore at home and around the world. In 2011, a deadly E. coli outbreak claimed the lives of 31 people and sickened more than 3,000. The outbreak was attributed to sprouts.

Next: Popeye would have likely died of E. coli.

Spinach

Spinach

It looks so fresh, but can it still be dangerous to eat? | Istetiana/iStock/Getty Images

In 2006, a break out of E. coli was attributed to contaminated spinach. Almost 200 people across 26 states were infected and three people perished as a result. That’ll certainly knock you back.

Next: This one already has issues with salmonella contamination. 

Raw poultry

Poultry

Chicken that isn’t cooked through can be extremely dangerous. | Bit245/iStock/Getty Images

Raw chicken or turkey is something that you always have to be wary of. In the United Kingdom, roughly 24% of chicken samples tested positive to an antibiotic-resistant strain of E. coli, Cambridge University discovered. Talk about getting a raw deal.

Next: This one sucks if you’re on a diet.

Lettuce

Lettuce

Like spinach, this fresh green is susceptible to E. coli. | Wmaster890/iStock/Getty Images

Lettuce is one of the biggest offenders of contamination. In April 2018, the CDC issued a large scale recall of romaine lettuce from all over the country. Most cases of infection were seen in Yuma, Arizona, but that same lettuce can be found all over the country. The CDC felt it would be safer to just throw it all out rather than risk getting infected.

Next: You’ll never look at your sandwich again.

Salami

Salami

Your favorite deli meats may be dangerous. | Tolisma/iStock/Getty Images

Cured meats are a big risk for E. coli infections. In 1994, an outbreak linked to salami stretched from Washington State to California. Luckily, no one was reported to have died as a result. However, we’ll never look at salami sandwich the same again.

Next: Sometimes this product doesn’t do your body good.

Unpasteurized milk

Fresh milk

You may want to choose pasteurized milk to be safe. | Ronstik/iStock/Getty Images

The CDC says that unpasteurized milk is one of the most at risk products for E. coli infections. Outbreaks are so common that recall notices can be found on your state’s department of agriculture websites. You may want to check yours more often.

Next: Just avoid anything that is unpasteurized.

Unpasteurized juice

Fresh Juice

It may taste fresh and healthy, but fresh juice has risks. | Creative-Family/iStock/Getty Images

Juice is no different. It is a prime environment for E.coli to thrive. The fact that we have any juice or milk that is unpasteurized is shocking, to say the least.

Next: Well, breakfast might be ruined for this next one. 

Pork

Bacon

Animals often carry E. coli. | Villagemoon/iStock/Getty Images

The best part of a Saturday morning can go south pretty quickly if you find out your bacon has E. coli. Unfortunately, this is fairly common in the world. Animals are natural carriers of E. coli and are primary sources of the bacteria.

Next: This one has shut down restaurant chains.

Ground Beef

Beef mince

Choose high quality beef at home and avoid the meat when you go out to eat. | Wiktory/iStock/Getty Images

If it’s not the lettuce, then it is the beef that gets a restaurant shut down. If you look at Taco Bell, Chipotle, Jack in the Box, or any large food chain, E. coli in beef is usually the culprit. Some stores took extremely long to recover from those outbreaks.

Next: You wouldn’t believe that this is actually a common thing that gets contaminated. 

Water

Kids swimming

Even water can be risky. | Bicho_raro/iStock/Getty Images

Yup. Water can get you sick with E. Coli. If you are swimming in lakes, ponds, streams, swimming pools, and backyard “kiddie” pools, don’t drink the water. That’s generally a common sense rule, but this should really drive that lesson home.

Next: Just how does all of E. coli stuff get in our food?

How does E. coli get into our food?

watering crops

This is how food becomes contaminated. | Alan_Lagadu/iStock/Getty Images

Because certain strains of E. coli is a natural bacteria in pretty much every living creature’s intestine, it’s really hard to prevent. For produce, they get contaminated from using certain fertilizers made from manure and animal waste runoff. Slaughterhouses expose raw meat to intestine when they break down the animal’s corpse. Sometimes, a producer misses a “kill step” like pasteurization to rid the product of the E. coli.

Next: These are the people that are at the highest risk of E. coli infection.

Who has the greatest risk of infection?

Pregnant and old women

Pregnant people are more at risk than some others. | LightFieldStudios/iStock/Getty Images

When it comes to an outbreak, there are people at higher risk of infection than others. “People with higher chances of foodborne illness are pregnant women, newborns, children, older adults, and those with weak immune systems, such as people with cancer, diabetes, or HIV/AIDS,” says the CDC.

Next: Here’s how you can tell if you or someone you love has been infected.

How can you tell if you caught E. coli?

Woman with stomach problem

Is it E. coli or something else? | Tharakorn/iStock/Getty Images

Most people will develop symptoms within three to four days, however, an infection can take up to 10 days to present itself. Symptoms include severe stomach cramps, diarrhea (often bloody), and vomiting. Most people recover within seven days.

About 5-10% of people can get a life-threatening problem called hemolytic uremic syndrome caused by the infection. Symptoms for this include decreased frequency of urination, feeling very tired, and losing pink color in cheeks and inside the lower eyelids. The person could end up dying of kidney failure.

Next: If you or someone you know does have those symptoms, this is what can be done to save a life. 

What should you do if you think you’re infected?

Lady suffering from stomach ache

Drink plenty of water and go to the hospital. | Sasha_Suzi/iStock/Getty Images

Go straight to the hospital if you have any of these symptoms. Tracking the problem will help prevent it from spreading. Drink plenty of water. If you are unable to keep yourself adequately hydrated, check yourself into the hospital for a longer stay.

Next: This is what you need to know to protect yourself.

What can you do to prevent E. coli from infecting you?

Woman washing vegetables

Washing everything thoroughly will be your best bet. | Sladic/iStock/Getty Images

Prevention of the spread of infections is pretty straightforward. Make sure you are thoroughly washing your produce. Cook your meats to the right temperature. Drink pasteurized beverages. Don’t cross-contaminate your food. And of course, don’t drink the pool water.

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