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Shiga toxin-producing E. coli

Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) is one of the “Big Six” microorganisms that are highly infectious and can cause severe foodborne illness. STEC specifically has been implicated in numerous outbreaks and recalls. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are approximately 265,000 STEC infections annually.

To discover more about this harmful microorganism, including how to minimize the risk of an outbreak in your business, check out our Shiga toxin-producing E. coli knowledge sheet.

How is Shiga toxin-producing E. coli transmitted?

E. coli infection can be transmitted through food contaminated with fecal material such as fruit, vegetables, dairy products, and raw meats, or by an infected food handler who does not wash his or her hands after using the bathroom and then prepares food that is served without further cooking.

E. coli can survive and grow slowly at low temperatures and under acidic conditions. These
bacteria can survive the acidity of the stomach to pass into the intestines. Here, STEC produces a toxin that damages the lining of the intestines. Anyone is susceptible, but the illness is most severe in young children, the elderly, and immunocompromised individuals.

Shiga toxin-producing E. coli prevention tips

Keep your employees and customers safe by following prevention tips below to minimize the risk of an outbreak in your business.

  1. Require employees to wash their hands between each task and after using the restroom using hot, soapy water for at least 20 seconds.
  2. Cook raw meats to proper temperatures.
  3. Avoid cross-contamination by washing and sanitizing utensils, equipment, and other food contact surfaces when switching between tasks.
  4. Ensure your locations have programs in place such as Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) plans and Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for produce washing, personal hygiene, prevention of cross-contamination, and sanitation.
  5. Follow-up on any customer foodborne illness claims without delay, and alert the health department of multiple claims so any outbreaks can be investigated quickly.

If there is a Shiga toxin-producing E. coli outbreak at your facility, Steritech offers Crisis Management assistance. We also provide a wide selection of health and safety services that can minimize the risk of transmission of food-borne illnesses. Contact us today to learn more.


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