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Food Sources of E. Coli Poisoning

In this article we take a look at common food sources of E. coli poisoning (foods that have been identified or suspected as sources of E. coli outbreaks over the past decades). While these foods may be more likely to cause future E. coli outbreaks than other foods, it should be borne in mind that any food or beverage that may have been cross-contaminated during food preparation (due to a use of contaminated surfaces or kitchen utensils) or during cultivation or handling may cause a food-borne outbreak of E. coli.

E. Coli – From Harmless Bacteria to a Source of Food Poisoning

Before we list the individual foods that have been identified as sources of E. coli poisoning in people, let's take a look at what E. coli actually is. E. coli, or Escherichia coli, is a type of bacterium that is naturally present in the intestines of humans and animals where it does not usually cause any problems. However, there are certain types (or strains) of Escherichia coli that can cause poisoning. Escherichia coli O157:H7 (or E. coli O157:H7) is one such strain, and it has been responsible for several E. coli outbreaks in the US, Canada, Spain, France, Germany, Japan and the UK since 1982. In addition to causing poisoning characterized by severe diarrhea, nausea and/or vomiting, E. coli O157:H7 may internal bleeding, enteritis (inflammation of the intestines), and in some cases, severe damage to the kidneys. Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome (HUS) is a type of severe kidney failure that is sometimes caused by E. coli and that can be fatal. HUS symptoms and their severity typically vary depending on the person's general health condition. These symptoms may include abdominal pain, bloody diarrhea, vomiting, decreased urination and blood in the urine, fever, irritability and fatigue, pale skin tone, and neurological symptoms such as seizures.

E. Coli and Food Contamination

The below E. coli food list provides an overview of foods / foodstuffs and beverages that have been identified or suspected as sources of E. coli outbreaks around the world.

CategorySample Foods
Raw or undercooked meat productsGround beef, ground bison, hamburgers, dried cured salami, sausages (for example Lebanon bologna), venison and poultry
SproutsAlfalfa sprouts, radish sprouts and clover sprouts
Unpasteurized dairyRaw milk, yoghurt, unpasteurized cheese, ice cream and raw goat's milk
Fruit and vegetablesLettuce, coleslaw, cucumbers, spinach, romaine, salad, radishes, broccoli and cantaloupe
DrinksDrinking water, unpasteurized apple juice and orange juice
OtherUnrefrigerated sandwiches, mayonnaise, unpasteurized apple cider, raw cookie dough, in-shell hazelnuts and shelled walnuts
Last content Update: June 2011