Don’t ruin your cookout by serving E. coli

Undercooked hamburger meat can make your guests sick

Credit: AJC

Backyard grilling is one perk of warm weather. If not cooked correctly, however, a backyard burger can be deadly. More than 100,000 pounds of ground beef has been recalled this year because of E. coli contamination. The CDC recommends cooking ground beef to a minimum internal temperature of 160° F to prevent foodborne illnesses. Never put cooked burgers on the platter where you had the raw patties. Always wash your hands after handling any raw meat.

The summer cookout brings with it the risk of sickness from bacteria that can end up spoiling more than one meal. Cook hamburgers incorrectly, and you could end up with a case of E. coli.

“E. coli stands for Escherichia coli, which is a type of bacteria,” said Dr. Nipunie Rajapakse, a Mayo Clinic infectious diseases specialist. “Most commonly, we hear about it in raw or undercooked hamburger meat.”

Rajapakse said E. coli bacteria can create some stomach-turning symptoms, such as abdominal pain and nausea. But it can get worse.

“There’s a specific type of E. coli.,” Rajapakse said. “It’s called O157:H7, which can cause bloody diarrhea and has been associated with a condition that can cause kidney damage, especially in young children.”

The elderly are also at higher risk for problems with E. coli, as are pregnant women, people with underlying digestive problems and those with weakened immune systems.

“If somebody were to be exposed to E. coli in something they ate or drank, they may have symptom onset within a couple of days to a few weeks after infection or exposure,”Rajapakse explained.

She said the best way to avoid a bout with the bacteria is to wash your hands and thoroughly cook your hamburgers.

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