Ecolab Experts on Microbes – Escherichia coli O157:H7

May 25, 2015 11:00 AM ET

In this video, Ruth Petran, Ecolab vice president, Food Safety and Public Health, explains the importance of monitoring and prevention of Escherichia coli O157:H7 commonly referred to as E. coli O157:H7.

E. coli O157:H7 is a member of the enterohemorrhagic E. coli group. These Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) are responsible for very serious, food-related E. coli infections that cause severe damage to the lining of the intestine. E. coli O157:H7 is very different from generic E.coli, which can be isolated from more than 95 percent of fecal material from all animals, including humans, and is not typically a foodborne pathogen.  While generic E. coli is present in almost all fecal material, it also survives and grows very well outside the host. Therefore, finding generic E. coli does not necessarily indicate that fecal contamination is present.

Typical STEC symptoms include severe bloody diarrhea and abdominal cramps, with little or no fever. Symptoms usually occur three to four days after exposure, but onset ranges from two to nine days and generally last five to 10 days. Individuals can shed the organism for up to two weeks after they recover and become asymptomatic.

Several interventions to reduce the prevalence of E. coli O157:H7 and other STEC are practiced. The beef processing industry has implemented a number of food safety procedures to reduce or eliminate the presence of the organism on meat. Prevention of fecal contamination during slaughter and milking is an important step to minimize contamination, especially for products that will enter the food chain in the raw state.

Food-related illnesses like E. coli are a growing public health problem.  From helping to prevent cross-contamination in food processing facilities to providing antimicrobial treatments for raw produce, Ecolab is a global leader in keeping food safe.