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TED Talk: The Coming Crisis in Antibiotics

November 17, 2014

Continuing with antibiotic awareness discussions, here is a great TED talk that's worth checking out:

TED Talk - The Coming Crisis in Antibiotics

Also, don't forget, this week is officially Get Smart About Antibiotics Week!  Read more:

It's Time to Get Smart About Antibiotics!

November 7, 2014

November 17-23, 2014 is Get Smart About Antibiotics Week! The CDC promotes this annual observance, to raise awareness about the problems of antibiotic resistance. It also stresses the importance of appropriate antibiotic prescribing and use. Antibiotic resistance is a growing, relentless global health threat.

Reports show that each year in the United States alone, at least 2 million people become infected with antibiotic resistant bacteria, and at least 23,000 people die as a direct result. Many others die from complications caused by antibiotic-resistant infections.

The CDC accurately states that "The use of antibiotics is the single most important factor leading to antibiotic resistance around the world." Antibiotics are among the most commonly prescribed drugs. However, up to 50% of all the antibiotics prescribed for people are not needed or are not fully effective as prescribed. Antibiotics are also used to promote growth in food animals, which is an unnecessary abuse in our agricultural system.

Antibiotics only work on bacterial infections, not viruses. They do not work on colds, flu, bronchitis, or sore throats (not incl. strep throat). This great chart shows which common illnesses are bacterial or viral, and when antibiotics are appropriate vs. not needed.

Read more:

Did you read the facts? Now test your knowledge with this CDC's Antibiotic Quiz!
Here are some great promotional materials to download, print, and distribute (permission is not needed):

Reputable Ebola News and Updates

October 27, 2014

The current outbreak of Ebola in West Africa is the largest and most complex to date. It is declared as an international public health emergency by WHO (World Health Organization). The recent U.S. exposures and infection is causing some fears and concerns, both legitimate and irrational. In order to provide reputable and accurate information, the link below can be accessed for the latest, continuing factual news.
Visit the Ebola Resource Centre to access regularly updated content.

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Germs Thrive at Work, Too

October 27, 2014

Flu season is quickly approaching, and people in the workforce are just as susceptible to spread germs amongst their colleagues. According to a University of Arizona, Tucson study, just one door contaminated with a virus spreads the germ within four hours, to about 50 % of surfaces and approx. 50% of the office employees' hands. Even though most people didn't know each other, the virus (from just that one door handle) contaminated the break room appliances, and then spread to restrooms, offices, and cubicles (desks, phones, and computers) within only two hours. Many viruses can survive on surfaces up to 2 — 4 days, and people touch their nose, eyes, and mouth about 16 times per hour, making germ exposure and possible infection that much greater. This emphasizes the importance of frequent, proper hand hygiene by washing with soap and hot water, using hand sanitizers, and surface disinfecting wipes. The flu shot is also an added protection from becoming ill this season.

Read more:

Food Safety: Superbugs in our Food Supply

October 27, 2014

As a complement to our July 22, 2014 Antibiotic Misuse and Increasing Resistance article, the problem of antibiotic-resistant bacteria is becoming an important health issue. Resistant "superbugs" like Salmonella, have emerged in our food. In one recent outbreak, antibiotic-resistant strains of Salmonella found in chicken linked to Foster Farms products, sickened 634 people in 29 states and hospitalized 38% of the affected population. Public awareness needs to increase regarding the continued agricultural misuse of antibiotics. Knowledge and awareness can start the process to change policy and remove antibiotic abuse in farm animals, which in turn can prevent future food contamination.

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Enterovirus D68 In The News

October 3, 2014

Enterovirus D68 is a serious respiratory illness that is gaining local attention at Boston Children Hospital, as well as 40 + states with confirmed cases. It targets mostly children, particularly those with pre-existing respiratory conditions, such as asthma. In the past, Enterovirus was considered rare, with milder symptoms. This year, there are not only more diagnoses, but in some children, the symptoms are much more severe. To date, there are 500 confirmed cases in the U.S. A number of kids have been hospitalized, and sadly, 4 that are linked to the virus have died. Even though EV-D68 is classified as non-polio, the CDC is also investigating a possible link between Enterovirus D68, and polio-like symptoms (muscle weakness &/or paralysis). Viruses tend to mutate, and different strain variants will result, so this link is possible. 

Enterovirus D68 symptoms resemble a severe cold, or flu. But in some cases, a child may start to have trouble breathing, chest pain, wheezing or blue lips, which require medical attention. The virus itself invades and multiplies in the gastrointestinal tract (entero = gut). It may also invade other areas, such as the central nervous system, which is why the recent polio-type symptoms are being studied. Antibiotics do not work against any viruses (only bacterial infections). There is currently no antiviral treatment or vaccine available for Enterovirus D68, so the medical course of action is to treat the symptoms & let the illness run its course.

Transmission of EV-D68 is spread by an infected person through nasal secretions, saliva, stool, or a contaminated surface. Therefore a cough, sneeze, touching a contaminated hand / object, can make someone else sick. The CDC recommends THESE STEPS to prevent getting and spreading Enterovirus D68. This applies to cold and flu prevention as well. Proper hand hygiene is one of the best practices.

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American Ebola Patients Brought to U.S. for Treatment

August 4, 2014

For the first time in United States history, a patient has arrived at a domestic hospital to manage their Ebola virus infection. A second U.S. citizen arrived on Tuesday, August 5th. The two patients will be treated at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, GA, which is one of 4 top tiered facilities to handle infectious diseases. In fact, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is right down the street. The hospital's isolation unit is strategically designed with every precaution in mind to keep diseases from spreading. Intercoms and windows promote safe interactions, and everything that flows in and out of the patient's room is controlled, including air circulation. Therefore, the public should not be concerned about bringing our citizens home to this hospital, where they can best manage their symptoms. It is not spread easily like the flu, but rather through direct contact with blood or bodily secretions from an infected person who shows symptoms.

The Ebola virus, a type of hemorrhagic fever, currently has no cure. The survival rate is slim, with up to 90% fatality rates. The virus infects cells and multiplies throughout the body, causing symptoms including fever, vomiting, impaired organ functions, and internal / external bleeding. The current outbreak in West Africa is difficult to control. Living conditions are not sanitary, and people are contracting Ebola from not wearing adequate protective equipment, when in direct contact with family or friends battling this illness. There also needs to be improved proper cleaning and sterilization of homes, facilities, and medical equipment such as needles, syringes, and cuffs to monitor vitals.

An experimental serum was reportedly given to the two patients prior to transport, and it has shown promising results. Dr. Bruce Ribner, who heads the Emory isolation unit, explains to CNN that the two patients will undergo supportive care at the hospital. "This means carefully tracking a patient's symptoms, vital signs and organ function and taking measures, such as blood transfusions and dialysis, to keep him or her as stable as possible. We just have to keep the patient alive long enough in order for the body to control this infection."(, 2014)

The risk of the Ebola virus spreading in the U.S. is extremely slim. With our current awareness, hospital patients who recently traveled to Africa and exhibit symptoms will immediately be taken into isolation and tested. Bringing our two U.S. patients home is important for treatment, research, as well as compassion for them and their families. We need to take these calculated (low) risks in order to progress and improve medicine and technology. Any success and research that is gained from this can provide education, necessary equipment, and hopefully future medicine to infected areas, to control and help eliminate this deadly outbreak.

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We Are Our Bacteria

August 1, 2014

Antibiotics continue to be a hot topic in modern medicine. Besides the increasing antibiotic resistance to many strains of bacteria, our own bodies can be directly affected. We are all made up of trillions of cells, and surprisingly, bacteria cells outnumber human cells 10 to 1. We need this healthy balance of normal bacteria, aka flora, for our bodies to stay healthy, in balance, and protected from harmful germs.
Dr. Martin J. Blaser, an infectious disease specialist at NYU School of Medicine has researched bacteria roles in disease for over 30 years. A latest finding shows that our normal, healthy flora is changing and losing diversity. This opens us up to susceptibilities like asthma, celiac disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and other chronic conditions, even obesity. Dr. Blaser, along with colleagues, attributes this primarily to the overuse of antibiotics. This includes ingesting antibiotics from our food supply, as well as any prescribed doses. Read our July 22, 2014 Antibiotic Misuse and Increasing Resistance news link on this page, for additional detailed information about antibiotics. Read the links below for the causes and potential health detriments of our own declining bacteria diversity.

 Read more:

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Poor Sanitation Linked to Malnutrition in India

August 1, 2014

New research on malnutrition, which generates childhood stunting of growth, suggests that a cause is from an abundance of human waste polluting the soil and water, and not a lack of food. Better sanitation creates huge improvements in health, and researchers have known that childhood environments play a crucial role in childhood growth, and premature deaths.

Read more:

Summer Grilling Tips

July 22, 2014

The summer is officially here in high gear! People have fired up the grills and enjoying this traditional pastime. Grilling is a fun and easy way to serve up healthy meals. Here are some tips to ensure your food is safe, so your enjoyment isn't ruined by a nasty bout of food poisoning.

Before you turn on the propane or fire up the coals, clean your grill by scrubbing it with a grill brush before each and every use. There are inexpensive, specific grill brushes that make this a quick, easy task.

  • Follow a "One Hour Rule": In hot summer temps, if you're eating outdoors, set out perishable food items in one-hour shifts. After an hour, put uneaten food in a refrigerator (40º F or lower). Or, keep outdoor food on ice, as long as the entire item stays cold. This same rule applies to condiments like mayonnaise as well.
  • Cook your meat to the right internal temperature. This means 165º F for chicken, 160º F for hamburgers, and 145º F for fish. A complete chart is available HERE. The best way to grill / cook meat is to use a food thermometer, which will greatly reduce the risk of food poisoning. A recent survey by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics revealed only 23 percent of Americans use a food thermometer to check the doneness of their grilled meats. Cooking to proper internal temperatures helps make sure that your food tastes great and is safe to enjoy.
  • The survey also found that while 77 percent of Americans use different cutting boards for raw meats and ready-to-eat foods, only 9 percent always wash utensils before using them for the cooked foods. Be safe and wash both cutting boards and utensils in hot, soapy water between uses, and always wash your hands!

Read more: Food Handing Tips for Safe Summer Barbeques and Picnics

Read more: Barbeque and Food Safety

Exercising In The Heat

July 22, 2014

The summer sun brings out summer fun, and that includes exercising outside. In the heat, your body's temperature regulating system works overtime. If you overdo it, you put yourself at risk for a heat related illness. If the temperature or humidity is high - above 60%, scale back your workout. Wear light-colored, sweat-wicking clothing; dark clothes can absorb heat and make you hotter. Most importantly, stay hydrated. This includes before, during, and after your workout. Water is the best choice. But if you are sweating heavily, or exercising for more than 60 - 90 minutes, switch to sports drinks, which contain vital electrolytes that you lose in sweat. Protect yourself from the sun as well, with a broad spectrum UVA/UVB sunscreen with at least SPF 30.

Be aware for yourself and others around you, and watch for signs of dehydration, heat exhaustion, or heat stroke. Dehydration is a serious medical condition, and heat stroke is the most severe.  A list of warning symptoms for these three illnesses is located HERE, along with more details about managing outdoor activities during hot temperatures. 

Read more: Keeping Cool

Antibiotic Misuse and Increasing Resistance

July 22, 2014

Antibiotics are prescribed medications that when used properly, can fight off bacterial infections. They are not effective against infections caused by viruses, such as the common cold and flu. Unfortunately, because of overuse, improper use, use in agriculture, and the fact that bacteria are always evolving and changing (they mutate quickly), many strains of bacteria have grown resistant to one or more antibiotics, and this number is growing rapidly.

If you have to take antibiotics, it is important to finish your medicine, even if you're feeling better. If you stop early, some bacteria may survive and become resistant to the medication you were taking. Never save antibiotics or use someone else's prescription.

Scientists acknowledge that antibiotic resistance is a growing global health concern. Because there is no current immediate answer or cure-all for this problem, it is important to spread awareness, and take action to prevent the abuse and misuse of antibiotics. Using them incorrectly may do much more harm than good.

Read more: Antibiotics

Read more: Preventing Antibiotic Resistance

Read more: Antibiotic Resistance Issues

Voluntary Recall of Chobani Greek Yogurt Products

September 6, 2013

Greek yogurt is a popular choice with consumers because of its higher protein content and smooth texture. Chobani Inc. is a company that is well-known for producing this type of yogurt.

The company announced in the last week that it is recalling products with expiration dates of September 7 through October 7 (batch 16-012) due to a potential concern related to reports of gastrointestinal discomfort after eating their products. Some sources have reported that the product recall was caused by mold. However, the actual cause of spoilage is still under investigation by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). 

Read more: Chobani, Inc. Voluntarily Recalls Greek Yogurt Because of Product Concerns

FDA weighs in on "Gluten-Free" & "No Gluten" labeling

August 12, 2013

New rules from the Food and Drug Administration now require foods voluntarily labeled as "gluten-free" and "no gluten" to prove it. Foods must contain less than 20 parts per million of gluten to claim it on their labels. This new definition from the FDA is an example of the implementation of the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA). Gluten is a protein allergen found in wheat, barley, rye, and some other grains.

Dietary gluten avoidance is the only method of treatment for persons with Celiac Disease, a chronic small intestine condition that can cause other serious health concerns. Other individuals are sensitive to gluten-containing foods and also choose to avoid eating gluten.

Read more: FDA defines "gluten-free" for food labeling

Read more: Avoiding hidden food allergens

Read more: "Gluten-free" foods will finally be regulated, a boon for those with Celiac Disease

Hepatitis A Outbreak in Europe: Imported Berries

August 1, 2013

Earlier this summer, an outbreak of Hepatitis A in the United States was linked to frozen berries (see our story from June 1, 2013). Hepatitis A is a viral disease that affects the liver. It can be spread by contact with an infected person or when foods are handled by an infected person. Further, if water contaminated with human waste is used to wash produce, Hepatitis A contamination can occur.

Several European countries, including Italy and Ireland, experienced similar outbreaks of Hepatitis A this summer. These viral strains of Hepatitis A have also been linked to imported, frozen, ready-to-eat berry products.

Read more: Hepatitis A outbreak linked to imported berries

Food Safety at Farmers' Markets

July 20, 2013

Outdoor markets are a great way to support your area's farmers by buying directly from them. If you do buy from farmers' markets, it is quite important to follow food safety recommendations.

For example, a recent pilot study highlighted concerns over bacterial contamination. In the study, raw chicken purchased at farmers' markets were more likely to be contaminated with Salmonella sp. and Campylobacter sp. than raw chicken purchased at a supermarket.

Read more: Farmer's Market Chickens Higher in Bacteria

A Microbiological Comparison of Poultry Products Obtained from Farmers' Markets and Supermarkets in Pennsylvania

Always ensure that you keep your raw meat purchases cold and separated from ready-to-eat foods. Avoid cross-contamination by washing your hands between tasks and using separate cutting boards and kitchen utensils. Cook meats to an appropriate internal temperature: chicken should reach at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit.

Check out our helpful tips section for more information on safe food preparation at home.


Suspected Contamination of Injectable Steriod Prompts Recall

June 8, 2013

In October 2012, we highlighted a fungal meningitis outbreak with a suspected cause of injectable steriods from a compounding facility in Framingham, Massachusetts.

The FDA began investigating a Tennessee drug manufacturer after seven patients suffered from skin infections. The common cause is thought to be an injectable steroid for pain: methylprednisolone acetate. The company has recalled all of its injectable products in an attempt to prevent any additional cases. 

Read More: FDA alerts health care providers of adverse reactions associated with steroid injections from Main Street Family Pharmacy in Tennessee

Gut-Brain Connection: What Role Do Microbes Play?

June 7, 2013

Research suggests that we are not alone. Humans are colonized by a 'human microbiome' of microbes. These cells outnumber our own cells by 10 to 1. Many of those organisms are "good bugs" because they support health.

It appears that which microorganisms inhabit and form communities in our intestines can impact health, significantly. For example, a recent article in ScienceNews discusses the gut-brain connection and how it might be led by microbes. 

Read more: Microbes at home in your gut may also be influencing your brain

Frozen Berries Suspected in Hepatitis A Outbreak

June 1, 2013

Hepatitis A is a viral disease that affects the liver. It can be spread through direct contact with an infected person or through consuming contaminated foods. Immunization against Hepatitis A is an effective method of controlling most outbreaks, but this virus is still of concern in areas of the world with poor sanitation.

Sanitation control is an important role for anyone that produces food for the public. It is possible for many people to become ill from foods prepared by individuals that are infected.

Individuals in Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Arizona, and California were recently diagnosed with acute Hepatitis A. This multistate outbreak of Hepatitis A has tentatively been linked to "Townsend Farms Organic Anti-oxidant Blend" frozen berry product by the FDA and CDC. The viral genotype of Hepatitis A is rare in North America, but maybe linked to imported ingredients included in the product or handling by an ill employee.

Read more: Multistate outbreak of Hepatitis A potentially associated with a frozen berry blend food product

How Hygienic Is Your Handbag?

May 18, 2013

Fecal coliforms are one of the groups of microorganisms scientists use to gauge the hygiene of shared surfaces. The presence of fecal coliforms suggests transfer of some of the pathogens that could be present in feces.

Shared surfaces in bathrooms are often tested for fecal coliforms with a goal of developing better cleaning practices. A recent article suggests we should be looking beyond the bathroom to handbags.

Washing your hands after using the bathroom is a common practice. Do you wash your hands before and after you touch your personal items?

Read more: Study shows handbags are home to more bacteria than a toilet flush

Most Food Recalls Are Now Multiple Product Recalls

May 17, 2013

According to a recent article, most of the recent food recalls have been from companies issuing recalls of multiple products simultaneously. The most common reason for recalls in meat, poultry, and egg products were foreign objects mistakenly introduced during processing. The second most common reason was undeclared allergens in processed foods.

Both of these are of concern because many consumers rely heavily on processed foods, either for use in home cooking or by eating out at restaurants or food distribution centers that use partially processed items.

Read more: Food Recalls Driven by Companies Issuing Multiple Recalls in the First Quarter of 2013

Oral Microbes from Mom and Dad - Friend or Foe?

May 17, 2013

The microorganisms that colonize our bodies are members of the human microbiome. Many of these microorganisms are beneficial and support health. These microbial communities are founded at birth and develop based on diet, genetics, and exposure to microbes from the external environment. For example, some microorganisms stimulate our immune system to become better prepared for later attack or suppress pathogen overgrowth. Others produce compounds that are beneficial for health.

Studies have addressed how parenting practices may help - or hinder - the development of healthy oral microflora (microorganisms).

One study suggested that if parents used their own mouth to clean their child's dropped pacifier, their child would be less likely to develop allergies or sensitivities. Specifically, fewer children developed asthma, eczema, and other sensitivities if their parents sucked on their pacifier to clean it.

Read more: Pacifier Cleaning Practices and Risk of Allergy Development

Another study discussed the implications of microbiota swapping if a parent was prone to dental cavities. Some bacteria and/or microbial communities are more efficient at degrading tooth enamel. Streptococcus mutans is a bacterial species that has been implicated in dental caries and can be traced to saliva swapping between mom and baby.

Read more: The earlier the colonization by mutans Streptococci, the higher the caries prevalence at 4 years of age.

Family Dining: How Nutritious Is Their "Kid's Menu"?

April 15, 2013

A major restaurant trend is to provide a children's menu to entice families that choose to eat out more frequently. How appropriate are these meals for our children in an age of childhood obesity and an increased awareness of the contribution of food choices to chronic disease?

A recent article looked at various meals marketed towards children at major family-friendly a la carte dining chains. Many of them had more than double the calories, saturated fat, and sodium that is considered appropriate for the age group. Further, many of them do not feature fruits, vegetables, or sufficient fiber.

Read More: 97% of kids' meals are unhealthy, group says

Antibiotics in Agriculture

April 12, 2013

Over-use of antibiotics is warned against because it is a primary mechanism for microorganisms to develop antibiotic resistance. MRSA, for example, is an antibiotic resistant Staphylococcus that is of major concern in hospitals, as well as in community settings. When bacteria that cause disease become resistant to antibiotics, it becomes more difficult to treat the infections they cause.

In recent years, the CDC and other health care organizations have strongly advised doctors to prescribe antibiotics only as needed. Viral infections are not treated by antibiotics. Symptoms of the common cold and flu should be addressed in other ways. These public service campaigns have reduced unnecessary antibiotic prescriptions.

However, a majority of the antibiotics that are sold in the United States are sold for use in farming meat: for example, beef. The scale of meat farming in the US is significant and could be a source of multi-drug resistant pathogenic microorganisms.


Read more: Are Antibiotics In Our Meat Breeding Superbugs?

Norovirus Sickens Cruise Ship Passengers

March 21, 2013

Norovirus is a virus that causes nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and cramping. Individuals may also complain of fever and body aches, so norovirus is often called "stomach bug" or "stomach flu." Symptoms come on 24-48 hours after exposure and last as long as 2-3 days.

Norovirus made headlines again recently for its ability to spread rapidly when people live and eat in close proximity. This is because norovirus can be contracted from common touch surfaces. These surfaces include those in shared bathroom facilities and door handles.

Norovirus is responsible for almost half of reported foodborne illness outbreaks in the US between 2006-2010 (CDC). It can be spread easily at shared dining facilities, like those on a cruise ship, a cafeteria, a restaurant, or a dormitory. Individuals with norovirus symptoms should not prepare food for others, even at home.

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Does Your Doctor Cook?

March 19, 2013

A recent study indicates that healthcare providers that cook themselves are better at giving nutrition-related advice and maybe be more likely to think nutrition is important. Does your doctor cook?

Read more: Doctors who cook say they give better nutrition advice

Budget Cuts May Cut Food Safety Inspectors

February 14, 2013

Widespread budget-cuts are planned for March 1, 2013 as part of federal government "sequestration". These actions are expected to impact the ability of the FDA and USDA to provide timely food safety inspections. Food safety inspections are (and will still be) required of food production facilities and this could have a significant impact on consumer prices.

Read more: White House Warns of Food Safety Cuts

Read more: Industry: Government is Obligated to Provide Meat Inspection, Even With Sequester

Suspected Listeria Contamination Prompts Recall of Fully Cooked Meats

February 11, 2013

Listeria bacteria cause listeriosis, a rare food poisoning disease that can be fatal. Pregnant women, especially, should avoid foods that are more likely to be infected with listerosis, because of the disease's ability to move across the placenta and manifest as meningitis. Older adults and individuals with weakened immunity are also at greater risk for infection from contaminated foods.

Foods recently linked to Listeria contamination include:

  • ready-to-eat meats: deli meat, hot dogs
  • select raw fruits (i.e. cantaloupes)
  • unpasteurized milk
  • soft cheeses
In a recent case, Listeria contamination has been linked to fully cooked pork, chicken, and beef products listed in this blog post by Food Safety News. Although Listeria is killed by cooking, it can multiply slowly at colder temperatures (i.e. the refrigerator). If fully cooked products are not reheated appropriately in the kitchen, listerosis is of concern from handling or consuming contaminated products.


US Commodity Food Safety Concerns Highest for Poultry and Produce

February 10, 2013

Food commodities are agricultural products that the US government supports through subsidization and distribution. Tracking safety of food commodity products is important because some segments of the population consume them regularly. For example, food commodities are central to the National School Lunch Program.

A recent study reviewed data of food-related illnesses (1998-2008) connected to food commodities. This data suggests that of the outbreaks connected to food commodities, almost half of these food-related illnesses are connected to produce. The same analysis of outbreaks suggested that contaminated poultry caused the most deaths in that time period.

In an interview reported by the NY Times, the co-author of the study reported noted that on a per-meal basis, the risk of food illness from produce is low.

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Best Practices in Lettuce Handling May Not Be Enough

January 17, 2013

An E. coli outbreak in Canada has be traced - using genetic fingerprinting - to a California grower of salad greens. This E. coli strain, O1H57: H7, can cause food poisoning that includes acute hemorrhagic diarrhea. In the developed world, this strain is most likely to be acquired from eating contaminated ready-to-eat foods, including fresh produce, or eating undercooked meats.

The grower participates in a program of strict food handling guidelines, above and beyond mandatory practices. Other growers in the program, termed Leafy Green Marketing Agreement (LGMA), are very interested to know how this outbreak could have occurred despite the implementation of best practices.

Read more: E.coli-Contaminated Lettuce Came from a California LGMA Grower

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