E. coli has been in the news forever, coming from all over the world. Although there is no way to be 100% E. coli proof, there are ways to minimize risks:
1. Wash your hands (and your produce)! Good hand washing is the single most important thing you can do, especially after using the bathroom (or changing diapers); touching animals or spending time in their environments (playing fetch with Fido, for example); and before preparing and eating food. Rinsing produce under running water helps reduce bacteria, too.
2. Cook meats thoroughly. Ground beef and meat that has been tenderized should be cooked to at least 160 degrees Fahrenheit (use a thermometer to be sure!). "Heat kills bacteria," says Frechman. "Cooking leafy greens for 15 seconds at 160 degrees will also kill E. coli."
3. Avoid eating high-risk foods. Unpasteurized (raw) milk or cheeses, unpasteurized juices (apple cider is a biggie) and undercooked meat. And steer clear of human and animal feces (easier said than done when you don't know who's preparing your food and what their hand-washing habits are!).
4. Don't swallow! When you're in swimming pools, rivers, ponds, streams and backyard "kiddie" pools, don't swallow the water! Some kinds of E. coli cause disease by producing something called Shiga toxin. Infections start when you swallow invisible Shiga toxin-producing E. coli -- in other words, when you get tiny amounts of human or animal feces in your mouth (ew!).
5. Don't cross-contaminate. Clean and sanitize counter tops, cutting boards, utensils, refrigerator shelves and hands after they touch raw meat. Use separate cutting boards for fruits/vegetables and raw proteins, such as chicken, fish or meat.