HOW DO E. COLI AND SALMONELLA GET INTO OUR FOOD? E. coli is a type of bacteria that often resides within the intestinal tracks of animals, including people. Many strains are harmless, but strain 0157 causes serious food poisoning. In the intestines, the bacteria help to maintain health by producing vitamin K, and by keeping other species out. When fecal matter, manure, or pieces of the intestines are poorly processed and come into contact with meat or vegetables, the bacteria contained within them can attach themselves to food. Salmonella is also a bacteria, capable of causing diarrhea and other potentially severe illnesses. It can be found in water, fecal matter, and the intestines of mammals and birds. The best defense against infection is careful cleaning and cooking of meats and eggs.
SANITIZER, SOAP, HOT WATER? Nothing works better at getting rid of disease-causing viruses than simply washing one's hands with old-fashioned soap and water. That advice comes from the largest and most comprehensive scientific study ever done to compare the effectiveness of hand hygiene products. Scientists at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill studied how effective 14 different hand hygiene agents performed in reducing bacteria and viruses from the hands after a 10-second exposure. Subjects first cleaned their hands, which were then exposed to a harmless bacterium and a virus comparable to disease-causing organisms. Then the subjects cleaned their hands with various agents, after which the scientists measured how much of the bacteria and virus remained. The study showed that after a short exposure time of 10 seconds, nearly all the hand hygiene products reduced 90 percent of bacteria on the hands. But waterless alcohol-based hand wipes only removed about 50 percent of bacteria from the subjects' hands.