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E. Coli Outbreak Affects These States and 72 People

Seventy-two people across five states have been sickened by an E. coli outbreak that left eight people hospitalized. Cases have been reported in Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia and Georgia. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced the outbreak and said they are working with the Food and Drug Administration and the Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service to determine the source. They have not yet identified the food, grocery store or restaurant responsible for the outbreak.

According to the CDC, there were 5,760 reported foodborne outbreaks between 2009 and 2015, resulting in 100,939 illnesses, 5,699 hospitalizations and 145 deaths. Of these, contaminated vegetables were responsible for 10% of illnesses. One of the most frequent sources of this contamination is nearby concentrated animal feeding operations.

Last year, an E. coli outbreak reached 36 states and at least 210 people, and even caused five deaths. Hospitalizing 96 people, it was the largest E. coli outbreak in 12 years. The CDC isolated the problem to bagged and chopped romaine lettuce grown in Yuma, Arizona. The contamination appeared to have been caused by runoff from a nearby factory farm into a canal. Water from the canal was used to irrigate the lettuce.

While prewashed or pre-chopped produce sold in bags and containers may be convenient, these products are the ones most frequently implicated in outbreaks associated with foodborne illness. They carry an extra risk because they come in contact with more people and machinery before they wind up on your plate.

Follow these tips to help keep yourself and your family safe from foodborne illness:

Before handling and preparing produce, wash your hands with soap and water, clean your countertops, cutting board and cooking utensils. Use separate cutting boards for meats and produce to avoid cross contamination

Buy local food to reduce transport time and distance, as bacterial growth continues over time. The fresher the food is, the lower the bacterial load will be.

Store produce safely, away from raw meats, poultry and seafood to prevent cross contamination in your refrigerator

While no washing method will remove 100% of the microbes present, thoroughly rinsing the produce under running water while briskly rubbing it with your hands is an effective way to remove most microorganisms

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