The best way to avoid E.coli O157

Avoid food poisoning with four simple steps: clean, cook, chill and separate

VTEC can be passed from person to person if hygiene or hand-washing habits are inadequate. Photograph: iStock

VTEC can be passed from person to person if hygiene or hand-washing habits are inadequate. Photograph: iStock

 

VTEC, also known as E. coli O157, is a common cause of food poisoning in adults and children and has the potential to cause serious complications.

SafeFood says hands should be washed before and after handling food and eating; fruit and vegetables should be washed thoroughly and minced meats cooked all the way through before being consumed.

There are four simple steps to prevent food poisoning:

Clean – always wash your hands before and after preparing, handling and eating food, after visiting the toilet or after playing with pets or animals.

Cook – make sure that food is cooked all the way through in order to destroy any harmful bacteria that might be present.

Chill – keep food cool in order to prevent bad bacteria from growing; make sure that your fridge is at the correct temperature to keep cold foods chilled – aim to keep your fridge at 5 degrees or below.

Separate – to prevent cross-contamination, separate raw and cooked foods during storage and cooking and never let raw food – for example, raw meat – come into contact with ready-to-eat foods such as salads.

VTEC can become mixed with meat when it is minced. Eating meat (especially minced beef) that has not been thoroughly cooked all the way through to kill these bacteria can cause food poisoning.

VTEC can also be found in the stools of an infected person and can be passed from person to person if hygiene or hand-washing habits are inadequate. This is particularly common among toddlers who are not toilet-trained. Family members and playmates of these children are at high risk of becoming infected.

Any vegetables or fruit that have been contaminated by animal faeces and that are not washed properly before consumption can also cause infection.

Those who develop bloody diarrhoea are advised to visit their doctor.