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What people need to know about E. coli and food recalls

Edmontonjournal.com by Jane Skrypnek, April 28, 2018

The list of recalled pork products possibly contaminated with E. coli continued to expand Friday after 36 people in the Edmonton area became sick and one likely died from the illness.

This recall is only the latest in many Alberta has faced. Here’s what you need to be aware of for the future.

Q. Is there anything I can be looking out for at the grocery store?

“They’re microorganisms, meaning they’re tiny. You’d need a microscope to see them, so no,” said Domenic Pedulla, president of Canadian Food Safety Group.

But, you should be paying attention to what the packaging says and how the product should be prepared.

Q. I’ve brought the meat home from the grocery store. What now?

Meat should be going straight into the refrigerator or freezer if it isn’t being immediately cooked, and your refrigerator should be set at 4 C or lower.

Keep in mind that best-before dates shorten when meat is removed from its original package.

Q. If I’m freezing my meat, how do I safely thaw it?

“The best way is in the refrigerator. You want to put it on a plate or in some kind of container so it doesn’t drip into other foods and cause more contamination,” said Pedulla.

“If it is an emergency, under cold running water, and make sure the water is flowing. It can’t just sit in water because harmful microorganisms can grow and multiply.”

Q. I’m cooking my meat. How do I keep everything clean?

“Once you do anything with raw meat, you want to clean and sanitize the counter and everything around the counter. If you’ve ever seen MythBusters, these juices splash a long, long way. You know, 10 to 12 feet,” said Pedulla.

Meat should always be prepared on a separate cutting board from other foods. Keep an eye out for any damage or deep grooves in cutting boards as they can harbour contamination.

All knives and utensils need to be washed and sanitized immediately after use.

Q. How do I know it is safely cooked?

“Don’t cook to colour and don’t cook to touch. Don’t cook till the juices run clear. That used to be the advice a long time ago, and that’s been proven to not be effective,” Pedulla said.

Poultry should be cooked to at least 74 C, and red meat to at least 71 C.

Q. What are the symptoms of E. coli?

The main symptom is diarrhea, which may be bloody, along with nausea and vomiting. Symptoms usually start one to 10 days after eating contaminated food.

Q. What should I do if I feel ill?

Alberta Health Services recommends people stay home when they’re sick, wash hands regularly and refrain from preparing foods if sick with diarrhea. Anyone displaying symptoms should contact Health Link or seek medical attention.