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In 1914, the Public Health Service first used coliform as a general name to indicate members of the Enterobacteriaceae family, a broad class of indicator microorganisms. Coliforms can be used to show the presence of more dangerous disease-causing bacteria or viruses. They can also be found in the intestinal tracts of humans and animals, feces, water, soil, and vegetation.

Coliforms are normally present on raw plants; positive testing for them does not necessarily indicate the produce has come in contact with feces.

Are All Coliforms Dangerous?

  • There are many types of coliforms, not all make people sick, but some do
  • Since there are so many types, exposure has effects varying from nothing to serious illnesses

How are they spread?

  • Frequently spread in hospital environments
  • Fruits or vegetables may become contaminated from soil or manure fertilizers during growing or harvesting periods
  • Contaminated water can pass bacteria if it touches food at any stage (irrigation, washing, rinsing, processing, etc.)
Food Safety