Following the illness of 19 people in seven states from the bacteria Escherichia coli, or E. coli, retailers are pulling products containing celery from their shelves because of potential contamination. At the same time, more than 47 people from nine states have been sickened after eating at Chipotle Mexican Grill, where a recent E. coli outbreak occurred. With some strains of E. coli causing symptoms such as diarrhea, urinary tract infections and pneumonia, it's important to prevent outbreaks in business.
"When someone buys a contaminated food and takes it home or at their business, every surface that is has touched is at risk of carrying that bacteria, especially in or around food preparation," said Rajiv Sahay, Ph. D., FIAS, CIAQP, Director of Laboratory Services at Environmental Diagnostics Laboratory (EDLab), a division of Pure Air Control Services. "Even after the product has been thrown away, the counter may still test positive for E. coli."
E. coli is a diverse group of bacteria that can be found in the intestines of humans and other warm-blooded animals, as well as in the environment. Although several strains of E. coli are harmless to humans, others can cause illness when outside the intestinal tract. E. coli can be transmitted two ways – either by consuming affected food or water, or making physical contact with an infected surface, person or animal.
To prevent an outbreak of E. coli from spreading, it's important to practice common hygiene practices. Clean all fruits and vegetables, which can be carriers of the bacteria, and sanitize all surfaces that have come in contact with raw meat. Refrigerators should also be set to 40° F or cooler and hot food stored at 140°F or above to prevent bacteria from multiplying.
For those who have purchased food items that may be contaminated, testing of the water and/or surfaces for E. coli may be warranted. At-home E. coli test kits are available through www.IndoorAirTest.com. This can identify E. coli bacteria present in the home and provide concentration levels for the bacteria.
"Armed with this information, business owners can determine whether a thorough sanitation of the affected area is needed," said Dr. Sahay. "It's a small price to pay for peace of mind."
Pure Air Control Services, Inc. (Pure Air) is a nationally recognized indoor environmental quality firm that offers a full range of professional solutions. For more than 30 years, Pure Air has provided clients with complete Indoor Environmental Quality (IEQ) solutions. Divisions include Environmental Diagnostics Laboratory (EDLab), Building Health Check, Diagnostics and Building Sciences, and Building Remediation Sciences. For more information, visit www.pureaircontrols.com.