Minimising the Risk
The following list of recommendations may seem daunting but most are just simple common sense.
- Always wash your hands thoroughly with hot soapy water before and after preparing food, after touching uncooked meat, after visiting the toilet, before eating, and after playing near animals.
- Disinfect food preparation surfaces before and after use.
- Ensure the food you eat is cooked thoroughly, send it back if you are concerned about undercooked meat bought in a restaurant.
- Avoid unpasteurised products - milk, cheese, and fruit juices.
- Wash all fruit and vegetables thoroughly.
- Boil any drinking water if you are unsure of its source.
- Remember a microwave can have hot spots, so ensure food is stirred and cooked throughout.
- Ensure your refrigerator's temperature is as cold as possible without freezing (below 5ºC or 40ºF) and store uncooked meat on the bottom shelf.
- Take great care to avoid dripping of raw meat juices onto other food either in the refrigerator or when bringing home from the shop.
- Never put cooked food back on a plate which has had fresh uncooked meat on it (remember to put out an extra plate when barbecueing).
- Wash kitchen towels after contact with raw meat juices and replace sponges often. (Use paper towels wherever you can).
- When preparing meat dishes do not leave the meat at room temperature for long periods of time. If the E.coli O157 bacterium exists in a product it will multiply rapidly.
- If cooking burgers choose smaller products rather than the larger ones in these ranges, as they are easier to cook thoroughly.
- Never eat minced meat products that are cooked rare or when the blood from the meat is visible.
For those visiting the countryside or those who live there, please remove outdoor shoes when entering the house (particularly if you have been in an area used by animals) to avoid any contamination being transferred to flooring.
Health Protection Scotland has co-authored an information sheet with the Scottish Agricultural College on "Simple Precautions for reducing the risk of E.coli O157 infection in rural families and visitors". This can be downloaded from our "Posters and Literature" page or from the following link: http://www.hps.scot.nhs.uk/giz/guidelinedetail.aspx?id=38604