Escherichia coli 0157:H7
Food Hazards in Animal Flesh and By-products from Vegan Health Articles

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Escherichia coli O157:H7 (enterohemorrhagic E. coli or EHEC)

Currently, there are four recognized classes of enterovirulent E. coli (collectively referred to as the EEC group) that cause gastroenteritis in humans. Among these is the enterohemorrhagic (EHEC) strain designated E. coli O157:H7.  E. coli is a normal inhabitant of the intestines of all animals, including humans. When aerobic culture methods are used, E. coli is the dominant species found in feces. Normally E. coli serves a useful function in the body by suppressing the growth of harmful bacterial species and by synthesizing appreciable amounts of vitamins. A minority of E. coli strains are capable of causing human illness by several different mechanisms. E. coli serotype O157:H7 is a rare variety of E. coli that produces large quantities of one or more related, potent toxins that cause severe damage to the lining of the intestine. These toxins [verotoxin (VT), shiga-like toxin] are closely related or identical to the toxin produced by Shigella dysenteriae.

Any food that is contaminated with E. coli 0157:H7 has also been contaminated with feces.

Hemorrhagic colitis is the name of the acute disease caused by E. coli O157:H7.

The illness is characterized by severe cramping (abdominal pain) and diarrhea which is initially watery but becomes grossly bloody. Occasionally vomiting occurs. Fever is either low-grade or absent. The illness is usually self-limited and lasts for an average of 8 days. Some individuals exhibit watery diarrhea only.

Infective dose -- Unknown, but from a compilation of outbreak data, including the organism's ability to be passed person-to-person in the day-care setting and nursing homes, the dose may be similar to that of Shigella spp. (as few as 10 organisms).

Undercooked or raw hamburger (ground beef) has been implicated in many of the documented outbreaks.  This contamination occurs in the slaughterhouse, where feces is on the animal's flesh.  Even if only one piece of flesh is contaminated with feces, when the flesh is ground and mixed together, it all becomes contaminated. 

E. coli O157:H7 outbreaks have implicated alfalfa sprouts, unpasteurized fruit juices, dry-cured salami, lettuce, game meat, and cheese curds.  Vegetables are not primary sources of the contamination.  Any E. coli found on vegetables have come from feces that has been used as fertilizer or from feces-contaminated flesh, or from an infected person who did not wash their hands properly.

Raw milk was the vehicle in a school outbreak in Canada.  In our Animal Exploitation Photo Journal on The Cattle, there are photos of feces covered cows being milked.  We are surprised that there are not more outbreaks.

Hemorrhagic colitis infections appear not to be very common (judged by the reporting), but this is probably not reflective of the true frequency. In the Pacific Northwest, E. coli O157:H7 is thought to be second only to Salmonella as a cause of bacterial diarrhea. Because of the unmistakable symptoms of profuse, visible blood in severe cases, those victims probably seek medical attention, but less severe cases are probably more numerous.

Even vegans need to be very cautious because plant foods can become contaminated when exposed to infected animal foods and unsanitary conditions in supermarkets, restaurants, and even homes where animal food products are present.  If animal feces are used as a fertilizer, there is always the potential for E. coli 0157:H7 contamination of the fruits and vegetables that come in contact with the soil, even on organic farms.  We believe the safest form of gardening is veganic (without animal fertilizer).

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We began this archive as a means of assisting our visitors in answering many of their health and diet questions, and in encouraging them to take a pro-active part in their own health. We believe the articles and information contained herein are true, but are not presenting them as advice. We, personally, have found that a whole food vegan diet has helped our own health, and simply wish to share with others the things we have found. Each of us must make our own decisions, for it's our own body. If you have a health problem, see your own physician.