E. coli poisoning is the result of contact with the bacterium either through contaminated foods, direct contact with animals, or their faeces, which can happen easier than you would think.
Food can become contaminated with E. coli when it has not being cleaned or cooked through properly, which is why it is especially important for food handlers to take special care when preparing meat and dairy.
Cross-contamination can also occur when raw fruits and vegetables are prepared on or near where meat has been handled, or chopped with the same utensils, for example. It is for this reason that all staff who are handling food must undergo thorough health and safety training as it can lead to establishments being investigated and closed down.
The E. coli bacteria is not harmless to animals but when humans contract it, the effects can be fatal.
When you are in contact with any animals, particularly sheep, goats and cows, it is important to thoroughly wash your hands before touching your face or eating. This helps explain why a large number of E. coli cases involve young children out on trips to petting zoos or their local farm.
In abattoirs and on farms, improper handling of animals and meat can lead to meat being contaminated with faeces, which could potentially affect every other worker in the supply chain. Once it reaches our homes, if the meat is not prepared and cooked properly to destroy the E. coli bacteria, entire families are put at risk.