Health department offers tips in light of E. Coli cases

LAWRENCEVILLE -- With several confirmed cases of E. Coli in the Atlanta area recently, the Georgia Department of Public Health has issued a reminder of basic steps consumers should take to ensure food safety.

Five cases of the bacteria have been reported in metro Atlanta in recent months.

"Paying close attention when selecting fruits and vegetables, as well as when preparing meals, can keep foodborne illness at bay," said Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald, commissioner of the state's Department of Public Health.

Fitzgerald offered a few food safety tips:

-- Buy produce that is not damaged or bruised, and make sure pre-cut produce is refrigerated or surrounded by ice.

-- Rinse all fruits and vegetables before eating.

-- Clean all surfaces and utensils -- including cutting boards, peelers, counter tops and knives that will touch fresh produce -- with soap and hot water. Wash hands for at least 20 seconds before and after handling produce.

-- Remove the outer leaves of leafy green vegetables before washing. Produce with firm skin, such as potatoes, may require rubbing with a vegetable brush.

-- Keep produce separate from raw foods like meat, poultry and seafood in your shopping cart, grocery bags and refrigerator.