Enterohaemorrhagic E. coli

  1. What is enterohaemorrhagic E. coli?

    Enterohaemorrhagic E. coli (EHEC) is mainly present in intestines of animals and can be found in contaminated beef and dairy products such as minced beef, hamburgers, roasted beef, raw milk and cheese. EHEC can be spread through consumption of water and food. Moreover, person-to-person transmission of this pathogen is possible through oral-faecal route. Infection may also occur via consumption of contaminated water or food such as vegetables, melons, fruit juice and yoghurt. Intestinal bleeding and serious complications such as haemolytic uraemic syndrome (HUS) may also develop in some people.

  2. What can we do to reduce the chance of infection when preparing food?

    The public is advised to take the following measures to reduce food safety risk:

    • Store meat in refrigerator or freezer before preparation. Do not eat undercooked hamburgers, ground beef and other meat products. i.e. cook all ground beef and hamburgers thoroughly until the cooked meat is brown throughout and the juices run clear.
    • Wash vegetables and produces thoroughly under clean running water. When appropriate, scrub produces with hard surfaces (e.g. cucumber and melons) with a clean produce brush to remove dirt, contaminants like pesticides and microorganisms from the surface and crevices. To reduce food safety risk, vegetables (including sprouts, cucumbers, tomatoes and lettuce) should be thoroughly cooked before consumption.
    • For people in high risk categories (i.e. young children, elderly people, pregnant women and others with weakened immune systems), they should avoid eating food containing raw vegetables such as sprouts, salad, coleslaw, pickled vegetables.
    • Stop preparing food when suffering from gastro-intestinal disturbances.