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Understanding Bacteria

Bacteria are found everywhere – in soil, plants, animals and even in the human body. While most bacteria are harmless, some can cause foodborne illness. Operators can minimize the risk of foodborne illness by practicing safe food handling and storage.

  • E. coli, E. coli O157:H7 and others
    • One of hundreds of strains of the bacterium Escherichia coli. Although most strains of this bacterium are harmless and live in the intestines of healthy humans and animals, this particular strain produces a powerful toxin and can cause illness. Eating food that has not been cooked sufficiently to kill bacteria such as E. coli O157:H7 can cause severe illness in humans.
  • Salmonella
    • A group of bacteria found in the digestive tract of many animals, including poultry and cattle. Salmonella can cause illness when ingested in raw or undercooked eggs, poultry or meats, though Salmonella also can contaminate other foods.
  • Listeria
    • A bacterium that can be found throughout the environment, including soil and water, and also may be carried by humans and animals. Listeria can cause severe illness, especially in vulnerable populations, including pregnant women, the elderly and those with weakened immune systems. Although Listeria is destroyed by cooking and pasteurization, it can grow readily at refrigeration temperatures.
  • Other microorganisms
    • Staphylococcus aureus
      • A bacteria primarily found in humans, which is often transferred to food with people carrying the bacteria handle food without washing their hands. Cooking cannot destroy the bacteria, therefore prevention is critical.
    • Campylobacter
      • This bacterium is associated with undercooked poultry, meats and untreated water. Campylobacter is best controlled through proper cooking and the prevention of cross-contamination.
    • Norovirus (Norwalk-like viruses)
      • The virus is carried by humans and can be found in contaminated water. It is most commonly associated with ready-to-eat food. Proper handwashing is essential to prevent the illness. It is also critical to prevent foodhandlers from working with food if they have symptoms related to the illness.

To find other bacteria, please visit www.servsafe.com

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