Amidst fears of the spread of COVID-19, many people have overlooked a constant threat – E. coli bacteria. Keep in mind that it’s present in the food we eat and since we eat every day, we’re exposed to its threat. Of course, we adopt precautionary measures in our home to decrease, if not eliminate, its threat to our health, as is the case for restaurants, too.
There’s Still the Threat
Still, we shouldn’t be too careful when we’re dining out! While Jimmy John’s is a reputable fast-food chain, it hasn’t been immune from the threat of E. coli bacteria.
The chain has been issued a warning letter by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regarding its track record. In the letter, the FDA asserted that certain vegetables served by the chain to its customers were implicated in five E. coli or salmonella outbreaks in the past seven years. The regulatory government agency also said that the chain receives and sells “adulterated fresh produce” particularly cucumbers and sprouts.
Jimmy John has already removed sprouts from its stores, according to CEO North.
So, you don’t have to worry about getting sick from E. coli or salmonella bacteria when you eat at Jimmy John’s. You just have to be more careful as it isn’t just in food that these harmful bacteria thrive.
There Are Plenty of Other Places for Bacteria to Thrive
Did you know that, on average, you will touch as many as 30 objects in a single minute? These objects usually harbor germs, bacteria and other pathogens that can make you sick, as if you ingested food with E. coli or salmonella bacteria, too. These things can include doorknobs, light switches, remote controls, cellphones, and pens and pencils – you name every object you’ve ever touched and it likely contains pathogens.
Just imagine the things you will be touching when you go to a restaurant and the risk to your health! While restaurants adopt food safety measures and maintain sanitary premises, as required by law, there are still certain things and areas that harbor harmful bacteria.
But first, what’s E. coli? It’s a type of bacteria that usually live in the intestines of animals and humans. Certain strains can cause a wide range of symptoms, such as abdominal pain, diarrhea and vomiting, which may require hospitalization. In general, E. coli infections can be contracted by consuming contaminated food or unpasteurized milk, even by drinking non-treated or non-potable water.
Cooking is a guaranteed method of killing E. coli bacteria. However, E. coli is difficult to wash away once it has taken hold in raw ingredients, usually the ones used for salads or for burger toppings. These raw ingredients include onions, lettuce and tomatoes.
There’s also the matter of E. coli being present – and thriving – in unexpected places, most of which you wouldn’t expect.
- Restaurant menus are among the common culprits because nearly everybody in the restaurant handles them. Besides, nobody wipes, much less wash, a menu regardless of its form – ordinary paper or glossy paper. But hundreds of people will touch them, perhaps even use a wet finger to flip through them.
- Take note that the flu and cold viruses can live for up to 18 hours on hard surfaces including restaurant menus. This isn’t to say that you should stop touching menus. Just be sure to wash your hands after touching them and never let them get in contact with your dining utensils.
- Condiment dispensers are just as likely places for bacteria to thrive as for salt and pepper to be placed in. These things aren’t also washed on a regular basis and hundreds of people will handle them. You don’t have to eat bland food, however, since you can use a disinfectant wipe to wipe the exterior parts of the dispensers or use it to handle the dispensers.
- Lemon wedges have disease-causing microbes, too, although not all of them. In a study published in the Journal of Environmental Health, nearly 70% of lemon wedges placed on the rims of glasses have 25 different microorganisms including E. coli. You may want to hold off on the lemon wedge next time you order a drink.
- Soap dispensers may seem like clean places because these contain a germ-killing liquid. But you may be wrong as about 25% of public restroom soap dispensers have fecal bacteria contamination. This is because most of these dispensers aren’t cleaned and the bacteria lives on the buildup of soap scum, while their bottoms come into contact with thousands of hands.
The solution: Scrub your hands thoroughly with hot water for 15-20 seconds. Follow up washing your hands with hand sanitizer, too.
Yes, the threat of E. coli may be ever-present but that doesn’t mean that you’re helpless, far from it. You just have to remember to wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water before eating, whether you’re at home or in a restaurant.