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Escherichia Coli Food Poisoning

Causative Agents

Many strains of E. coli are harmless and found naturally in the gut of human and animals. It presents in food has been an indication of feacal contamination, however a number of serotypes are now known to be pathogen. Humans are known to be the major if not the only source some strains. Other strains can be present in the intestinal track of cattle, sheep, pigs, buffalo, goat, deer, dog, cats and various birds. E. coli are not heat ressistant and will be destroyed by normal cooking temperatures. However the toxins that they produce are heat stable.

These strains are described by their effct :

  • Enteropathogenic Esherichia coli.
  • Enteroinvasive Esherichia coli.
  • Enterotoxigenic Esherichia coli.
  • Enterohaemorrhagic Esherichia coli.


Human and Animal Feaces

Food Implicated

  • Undercooked Burgers, meat and meat products
  • Contaminated food :
  • Cheese
  • Cendol
  • Drink / beverages / water
  • Ready to eat food
  • Dairy product, vegetables and salads

Mode of Spread

  • Food which is not adequately cooked
  • Contaminated water
  • Cross contamination from raw meat to cooked food


  • Diarrhoea or bloody diarrhoea
  • Severe stomach ache
  • Abdonimal cramps
  • Nausea

In severe cases, complication can result in death or Heamolytic Ureamic Syndrome or inflammation of bowel especially in children and the elderly.

Onset of illness

6 hours to 3 days (usually 10-15 hours)


  • Cook food and meat thoroughly (preferably more than 75 Celcius degree)
  • Obtain food from safe sources and ensure as far as possible that unprocessed animal manures are not used fruits and vegetables
  • Store perisable food either chilled or frozen
  • In the refrigerator store cooked foods above raw foods
  • Wash vegetables and fruits well and do not use vegetables and fruit showing obvious tissue damage
  • Wash your hand with soap after going to toilet, handling raw food and storing raw foods
Last reviewed : 12 September 2008
Writer : Dr. A’aisah bt. Senin
Norrani bt. Eksan