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How can I prevent an E. coli infection at home?

A fully loaded hamburger between two buns.Chances are you’ve heard about the recent E. coli outbreak at daycares across Calgary. E. coli infections can be especially dangerous for kids under the age of 5 as well as those who are pregnant, elderly or who have a weakened immune system.

Here’s what you need to know about E. coli and how you can prevent an infection at home.

What is E. Coli?

E. coli stands for Escherichia coli. It’s a type of bacteria that’s naturally found in the intestines of humans as well as animals including cattle, goats and sheep. While most strains of E. coli are harmless, there is one particular strain called E. coli O157:H7 which can cause serious problems such as stomach cramps, bloody diarrhea, vomiting and kidney damage.

What causes an E. coli infection?

An infection can occur after you eat or drink something that has been contaminated with E. coli, such as:

  • Raw or undercooked beef, especially ground meat: During butchering and processing, E. coli bacteria from cattle’s intestines can get on the outer surfaces of meat. The risk of contamination is greater in ground meat because it combines meat sourced from different animals.
  • Unpasteurized drinks such as raw milk: If E. coli bacteria is present on a cow’s udder or on milking equipment, it may get into raw milk. The heat of pasteurization kills the harmful bacteria.
  • Contaminated produce: When fruits and vegetables are harvested, they may come in contact with contaminated manure or water.
  • Improper food handling: E. coli may be transferred to food products if an infected person’s hands are not washed properly when handling food.
  • Contaminated waters: It’s also possible to become infected with E. coli after drinking contaminated water or swallowing water in swimming pools / lakes that are contaminated with stool.

How to prevent an E. coli infection at home

  1. Cook ground meat to a temperature of 160F (71C): Use a meat thermometer. Don’t judge doneness by colour since meat can turn brown before it is completely cooked.
  1. Drink pasteurized milk, juice and cider: The chances of an E. coli infection are higher in beverages such as raw milk and unpasteurized apple cider.
  1. Wash raw produce: E. coli can cling to produce, especially leafy greens. Wash leafy greens under fresh, cool running water. Keep rinsing until all of the dirt has been washed off. There is no need to wash ready-to-eat, pre-packaged leafy greens that have already been washed / pre-washed / triple-washed.
  1. Avoid cross-contamination: Keep raw foods separate from cooked foods in your grocery cart, at home and when cooking. Don’t use the same knives, utensils, cutting boards and plates to handle cooked foods if they have been in contact with raw meat. Wash equipment and countertops with hot soapy water before and after they come in contact with raw meat. 
  1. Wash your hands often. Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water before / during / after food prep, before eating, after using the bathroom and after changing diapers. Remind kids to wash their hands before eating and after using the bathroom too.
  1. Watch for news advisories / recalls related to E. coli outbreaks in food and lakes. You can find a list of food recalls from Health Canada here.

Beet Hummus


Beet Hummus

Beet Hummus

A vibrant and tasty hummus that pairs perfectly with pita and fresh veggies!
Course Appetizer
Servings 6


  • 1 small-medium sized beet, cooked Beet may be roasted, boiled or pre-cooked– see instructions below*
  • 1 can 15-ounce can chickpeas
  • 2 Tbsp tahini
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 2-3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • salt and pepper to taste


  • Dice the cooked beet. (Note: Beets will temporarily stainyour hands and cutting board. Wear food-safe gloves if you wish.)
  • Rinse and drain chickpeas. (You may keep the chickpea water, called aqua faba, and use it as an egg white substitute in baking!) Discard anyloose skins.
  • Add all ingredients to a food processor and blend untilsmooth. If hummus is too thick, blend in a little more olive oil.  
  • Serve with pita bread and your favourite raw veggies.


*You may boil or roast beets, or use packaged, pre-cooked beets found in the produce section at the grocery. Roasting beets accentuates their natural sweet flavour. I suggest making a batch of roasted beets and use the extras in salads like my Quinoa Salad with Beets, Oranges and Arugula.
To roast beets: Preheat oven to 400F. Cut off beet leaves and use for a soup or stir fry. Cut stems leaving about ½ inch of stem attached to the beet (this helps to prevent the beet from “bleeding” during cooking). Wash beets and wrap each one in aluminum foil. Place on an oven safe baking sheet and roast for about 1 hour or until fork tender. Allow beets to completely cool and easily rub off the skins with your fingers. (Beets will stain your hands and cutting board temporarily. You can wear food-safe gloves when touching / peeling the cooked beets.)
To boil beets: Cut off beet leaves and use for a soup or stir fry. Cut stems leaving about ½ inch of stem attached to the beet (this helps to prevent the beet from “bleeding” during cooking). Place beets in a pot of cold water, ensuring that beets are fully covered. Boil beets until fork tender (about 20 minutes for small beets, up to 40 minutes for larger beets).  
Keyword appetizer, Beet hummus, Dip, Hummus

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