Posts Tagged ‘bacteria’

green romaine lettuce with black background

 I was surprised when I heard last month that E.coli cases were on the rise in Wood County, the county I live and work in. Currently, there are 23 known cases of Shiga toxin- producing Escherichia coli (STEC) E. coli identified by our local health department.  This is a huge increase from cases in the past. For example, in the last five and a half years the county has logged 27 E. coli cases. Of the 23 cases to date, 7 people from my community have been hospitalized, with ages ranging from 21- 60. According to the CDC , a specific food has not yet been confirmed as the source of this outbreak, but many sick people reported eating burgers and sandwiches with romaine lettuce before getting sick. Center for Disease Control also reports that E.coli cases  have been found in  Indiana, Michigan and Pennsylvania, Kentucky, and New York.

So, you may ask what is  Escherichia coli  (E. coli)? Well, E. coli can be found in intestines of animals and people, our foods and our environment. Most are harmless and can be a part of a healthy immune system. However, some E. coli can cause a lot of harm to the body. It can cause diarrhea, fever, severe vomiting and even kidney problems. Most people with (STEC) infection start to feel ill 3 to 4 days after eating something that contains the bacteria. However, people can feel ill anywhere from 1 to 10 days after exposure.

 Ways to prevent the spread of E. Coli

                Good Personal Hygiene

A person washing their hands with soap and water
  • Wash hands thoroughly before and after preparing food, after using the restroom and changing diapers.
  • Wash hands thoroughly after contact with animals such as farms, petting zoos, fairs and even your own animal.
  • Wash hands thoroughly before preparing or feeding bottles or foods to an infant or toddler and before touching their mouths, and pacifiers.

Wash fruits and vegetables

  • Wash fruits and vegetables well under running water, unless the package says it has already been washed.

Cook meats thoroughly

  • Cook ground beef a minimum temperature of 160 degrees F.
  • Always use a food thermometer to check that the meat has reached a safe  minimum internal temperature.

Written by: Susan Zies, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, OSU Extension Wood County

Reviewed by: Shannon Smith RD, LD, CDCES, Family and Consumer Sciences Program Coordinator, OSU Extension Wood County




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Do you follow the “5-second rule” when you drop food on the floor?  If you do, you may want to rethink your actions.

Different factors affect how quickly bacteria will be transferred.  These
include moisture, type of surface, and contact time.  It was found in some instances the bacteria began to transfer in less than one second.  Time to rethink the idea that you can pick up any food off the floor quickly, and it is safe to eat.koli-bacteria-123081__180

Researchers at Rutgers University tested four surfaces:

  • stainless steel
  • ceramic
  • tile
  • wood

Each of the surfaces were contaminated an Enterobacter aerogenes, “cousin” of Salmonella.  The bacteria were allowed to dry before food was dropped.

They used four different types of foods:watermelon-on-tile

  • watermelon
  • bread
  • bread and butter
  • gummy candy

The researchers replicated the scenarios 20 times each checking the bacteria transfer to food samples at less than one second, five, 30 and 300 seconds.  Each food sample was then analyzed for contamination.

Moisture seemed to increase the transfer of bacteria to food the most.  Watermelon contained the most contamination while gummy candy contained the least.  The longer the food was on the contaminated surface the more bacteria it contained. However, contamination from bacteria can occur instantly. 

Surprisingly, carpet had low transfer rates. Tile and stainless steel bread-on-carpethad higher transfer rates than wood which was variable.  Another study with tile found E. coli was transferred to gummy candy in less than 5 seconds with more bacteria transferred from smooth tile than rough tile. 

Next time, you drop some food on the floor you may want to think twice before you put it in your mouth.  Any food that has been on the floor may contain bacteria which may make you sick.  Is the food that important or expensive?   Would you be better off throwing it away?   It is always better to avoid infection or being sick.

Author:  Pat Brinkman, Extension Educator Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension

Reviewer: Shannon Carter, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Fairfield County


Aston University. (2014). Researchers Prove the Five Second Rule is Real. Aston University’s School of Life and Health Sciences.  Available at http://www.aston.ac.uk/news/releases/2014/march/five-second-food-rule-does-exist/

Schaffner, D. (2016). Rutgers Researchers Debunk ‘Five-Second Rule’: Eating Food off the Floor Isn’t Safe.  Rutgers Today.  Available at http://news.rutgers.edu/research-news/rutgers-researchers-debunk-%E2%80%98five-second-rule%E2%80%99-eating-food-floor-isn%E2%80%99t-safe/20160908#.V_ZUJvkrKUk

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. (2003). If You Drop It, Should You Eat It?  Scientists Weigh In on the 5-Second Rule.  College News.   Available at http://news.aces.illinois.edu/news/If-you-drop-it-should-you-eat-it-scientists-weigh-5-second-rule

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When you put on your shoes, do you ever pause for a moment to think about where those shoes have been? Every time you walk, your shoes pick up a multitude of unwanted substances.  A recent study found nine different species of bacteria on the bottom of people’s shoes.  And what’s even scarier, the study found that bacteria live longer on shoes than many other hard surfaces.

Specific examples found on shoe soles included E coli, tetanus, strep, hepatitis, and C difficile. Researchers also discovered viruses, parasites, fungi, allergens and toxic substances.  Eeuuw.

The substances listed above were picked up from streets, sidewalks, and the floors of office buildings. Included in this toxic mix were:

  • Remnants of feces from dogs, cats, rodents, birds and other wildlife, and humans
  • Urine from the same sources
  • Remains from insects and rodents
  • Remnants of garbage including food waste and toxic cleaning products
  • Excretions such as saliva, mucus, sweat, blood or vomit
  • Residue from insecticides, gasoline, oils and grease
  • Urine and germs from restroom floors
  • Soil contaminated with lead, pesticides, lawn chemicals and/or toxic wood preservatives from lawns and parks

The reason shoes can harbor such a motley assortment of “ick” is because most shoe soles are made from leather, rubber or other porous materials that allow for the absorption of microscopic substances. Once inside your home, contaminated shoes can become a source of disease; spreading germs to carpets and floors.

Tiled floors may be a substantial source of bacteria (90% of floors surveyed found unwanted substances), but are fortunately easy to sanitize. Unfortunately, when you walk on any of your home floors in your bare feet, germs may attach to the bottom of your feet and subsequently end up on furniture and beds.  Children playing on the floor can be exposed to germs through their hands, clothing, and/or mouth.  And pets have the potential to pick up and spread these germs as well.


The best practice you can institute is to ask everyone to remove their shoes before entering the house to reduce the risk of bringing contaminants into the home.  Clean shoes with a sanitizing shoe mat, sanitizer wipes or a sanitizer sprayed on the bottom of your shoes.   Most importantly, leave your shoes at the door!

Written by:  Beth Stefura, Extension Educator, Family & Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Mahoning County, stefura.2@osu.edu

Reviewed by:  Donna Green, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Erie County, green.308@osu.edu

Sources: http://microbiomejournal.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s40168-015-0082-9

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What is one of the dirtiest items in your purse or pocket besides money?  Probably, your cell phone.  Stop for a minudirty cell phonete and think about where and when you used your cell phone.  We carry them everywhere, rushing to answer or check a text message with dirty hands.  We take it into the bathroom, kitchen and everywhere else.  If you have children you have probably given them your phone to distract them as you shop or drive the car.

One study found cell phones to be 18 times dirtier than toilet handles.  Another study found that 82% of cell phones tested positive for bacteria contamination and 16% had E.coli.

So, how do we clean our phones?

  • Check the directions in your owner’s manual for any specific cleaning instructions.
  • Power down the phone to help protect it as you clean.
  • You can wipe the screen clean with a microfiber cloth daily. This will help remove the dirt your hands left on the phone.cleaning cell phone
  • Use disposable cleaning electronic screens’ wipe but don’t use a regular cleaning wipe on your phone. If you don’t have an electronic screen wipe  use a soft cloth dampened with water.   To get the dirt out of the small corners and nooks use a cotton swab.
  • Dirt and grime can accumulate around the edges of your protective cover. Take the cover off weekly and use a disinfecting wipe on the inside and outside of the case.  Let it dry thoroughly before putting it back on your phone.
  • Wash your hands before using your phone which will prevent germs and dirt from getting on your phone.
  • Keep food and drink away from your phone.
  • Avoid using your phone in the bathroom. Droplets from flushing the toilet can land on your phone.

To avoid ruining the special coatings on some screens, never use any products containing harsh chemicals, like ammonia.

While you are cleaning try cleaning your computer and television remote too.  You can use a cleaning wipe on your keyboard or a cloth sprayed with an all-purpose cleaner.  Don’t spray directly onto your keyboard or laptop.  An air duster can help remove things stuck in your keyboard.  For the monitor just use a dry or dampened with clean water microfiber cloth to wipe away the dust and dirt.

Author:  Pat Brinkman, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension

Reviewer:  Jenny Even, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences/EFNEP, Ohio State University Extension


American Cleaning Institute, (2013).  Cell Phone Cleaning.  Available at http://www.cleaninginstitute.org/clean_living/cell_phone_cleaning.aspx

Eley, A. (2014). Find out how to clean your cell phone and other dirty gadgets, Available at


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rainforestRainforests are Earth’s oldest living ecosystem. They cover only 6% of the Earth’s surface, yet they contain more than one half of the world’s plant and animal species. You may never get the opportunity to see a rainforest, but you are actually living very close to another type of ecosystem. It’s called a microbiome, and it resides primarily inside your gastrointestinal tract. It contains trillions of bacterial cells that help you digest food, as well as influencing your appetite, metabolism, immune system and mood. Your microbiome also affects your risk for disease, one of them being obesity. Your intestines literally house a “microbial ecosystem” that works hand-in-hand with your human cells. It is imperative that those two ecologies work in harmony and maintain a symbiotic relationship to support each other’s (and by extension your) health.

How can they do that?

The more diverse your microbiome, the easier it is to manage your weight. As humans, we share 99.9% of the same human DNA. But no two people share the same microbiome. We acquire different bacterial strains through our family, co-workers, pets, and perfect strangers. We also change it daily with our food choices. It is an ever-evolving process, and one that you actually have a lot of control over.

Research into the causes of obesity has shown that (1) composition of gut microbiome plays a significant role in weight gain. Obesity is also associated with (2) a decrease in the overall diversity of your gut bugs (even though the total number of “bugs” may remain the same). What essentially happens is that certain groups of (not-so-great) bacteria take the place of other (healthier) bacterial groups. The replacing bacteria are better at harvesting energy from food than the bacteria they replaced, thus resulting in increased calorie intake and an increase in weight.

Picture this: someone in your neighborhood builds a new home. To do that, the yard is ripped up while the home is being built. At some point, landscaping and new grass will be planted, but until that happens, you will probably see many weeds weedsgrowing in the dirt. That’s because the bad growth has lots of opportunity to survive with the good stuff gone. The same thing is true in your body. If you go on an antibiotic and kill off a lot of your good bacteria, it will give bad bacteria an opportunity to flourish. As well, if you make food choices that don’t support the colonies of good bacteria you need, others will take their place. That imbalance in your microbiome may ultimately make it easier to gain weight, and conversely, harder to lose it. Yikes!

What should I eat to maintain a healthy microbiome (and weight)?
The best food choices for a healthy microbiome are plant foods. Most whole plant foods contain decent amounts of fiber. Examples would be the seeds, strings, peels, skins, pulp, and bran present in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Those fibrous bits and pieces remain intact all the way to your colon, where they become food for the good bacteria that live there. Your gut bugs ferment them, break them down, and provide us with awesome byproducts such as butyric acid, acetic acid, and vitamins. Constantly eating fast food or foods high in fat and sugar may cause bad bacteria to bloom and good ones to disappear.

The Takeaway

If pressed, most of us would admit that we need to eat more fruits and vegetables. They provide vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants. They are also low in calories, so including them in your meals or as snacks will enhance your efforts to lose weight. But plant foods are the primary fuel for our gut bugs, and improved bacterial colonies enhance our efforts to lose weight as well. Gut bugs and microbiome. Who knew??

Written by: Donna Green, Extension Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Family and Consumer Sciences, Erie County, Erie Basin EERA.

Reviewed by: Liz Smith, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension.


Click to access Turnbaugh_Nature2006.pdf

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