Bacteria such as Salmonella, Campylobacter and E. coli O157 cause severe abdominal cramping, diarrhea, and vomiting and in some severe cases of E.coli O157, hemolytic uremic syndrome and kidney failure.
These bacteria causing patient disease have been positively linked to the ingestion of contaminated food.
The Environmental Microbiology laboratory performs routine studies of retail food to screen for bacterial contamination. (Current study: broiler chickens are studied for Campylobacter contamination.)
The laboratory collaborates with the CDC and nine other states via the Foodborne Diseases Active Surveillance Network (FoodNet) to provide data that create a better understanding of the public health effect of foodborne illnesses.
The Environmental Microbiology laboratory also performs analyses on large numbers of food samples suspected as being the source of foodborne illness. In collaboration with the Consumer Protection Division, the laboratory obtains food samples suspected of containing bacteria which may be responsible for illness and quickly tests food specimens to aid in the recall of contaminated food sources. (Examples of newsworthy identification of food contamination provided by the Environmental Laboratory include: E.coli O157 contamination of spinach and Salmonella contamination of peanut butter and jalapeno peppers.)
As the primary site in Colorado for milk testing, a number of analyses are performed on all milk samples by the Environmental Microbiology lab to ensure a safe and quality product is available to consumers. The laboratory was issued a renewed certification by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as a fully accredited milk-testing laboratory in 2009.