Nutrition Action Healthletter
October 1999 — U.S. Edition
 

Introduction.

Beef, Pork, Lamb, Veal.

Poultry.

Seafood.

Dairy.

Eggs.

Fruits and Vegetables.

Juice and Cider.

Prepared Foods and Salads.

Hot Dogs and Deli Meats.

If You Get Sick.

When Traveling.

Meet the Bugs.
 

Beef, Pork, Lamb, Veal.
Food Safety Guide.
What to Do?

In December 1992, Lauren Rudolf was the first child to die after eating an undercooked Jack in the Box hamburger infected with the deadly E. coli O157:H7 bacterium. For three weeks—until the source of the contamination was identified—people in four western states continued to eat contaminated burgers. The toll: four children dead and more than 700 people ill.

   “E. coli O157:H7 produces a toxin that damages the intestine, kidney, and brain,” says Tauxe. “It’s an extremely potent toxin. It takes only a small number of the bacteria and only a small amount of the toxin to cause illness.”

   The bug sickens an estimated 25,000 people—and kills an estimated 100—in the U.S. every year.

   “The illness is essentially untreatable,” says Tauxe. “It doesn’t matter if you take an antibiotic. The antibiotic just kills the bacteria, releasing more toxin.”

   E. coli O157:H7 is more likely to contaminate ground beef than steaks, roasts, and other cuts because bacteria on the surface can end up inside the patty, where cooking temperatures may not be high enough to kill them.

   “Mechanically tenderized” meat can also harbor E. coli O157:H7. If pins are used to soften the meat, they can drive the bacteria below the surface.

   So far, E. coli O157:H7 hasn’t shown up in pork, veal, lamb, or poultry, even if they’re ground.
 

What to Do.

* Use a meat thermometer to make sure your meat—especially ground beef—reaches an internal temperature of 160°F. Checking the color of a hamburger (to make sure it isn’t pink inside) doesn’t guarantee that all E. coli are dead.

* Always cook pork (including pork sausage) to at least 160°F to kill any Trichinella, a parasite that can cause abdominal pain, diarrhea, and (two or three weeks later) muscle pain, fever, and swelling.


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