Safe handling of ground beef urged

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is urging safe handling and thorough cooking of ground beef in the wake of an E. coli outbreak.

The E. coli 0103 outbreak that has sickened people in Georgia and five other Southeastern states has not struck in DeKalb County yet, but the DeKalb Board of Health says the county is not out of the woods.

Statewide, 17 cases have been linked to the outbreak from contaminated ground beef. Nationally, 109 victims have been sickened by E. coli 0103.
Panels taking on growing violence in DeKalb

Dr. S. Elizabeth Ford

Dr. S. Elizabeth Ford, DeKalb District Health director, says that to date none of the Georgia cases has been in DeKalb County.

“We have not had anyone in DeKalb, but that is no reason for people to relax,” she told CrossRoadsNews on April 11.
 
The outbreak, which started March 2,  has sickened people in Kentucky (54); Tennessee (28); Georgia (17); Ohio (7); Virginia (2); and Indiana (1).
 
Seventeen people have been hospitalized, but none has  suffered kidney failure, and there have been no deaths.
 
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is working to identify the source of the contamination, which started March 2, but it is yet to pinpoint a common supplier, distributor or brand.
 
This outbreak comes in the wake of a June 2018 outbreak that killed five and sickened 200 people in 36 states. In November, another E. coli outbreak led to a widespread recall of romaine lettuce.
 
The CDC says it has interviewed 75 of the people affected and says that 84 percent of them bought or ate ground beef from several different grocery stores and restaurants in the week prior to falling ill.
 
The victims range from infant to elderly. The median age of those affected is 18.
 
“Many ill people bought large trays or chubs of ground beef from grocery stores and used the meat to make dishes like spaghetti sauce and sloppy joe,” the CDC said April 12.
 
While it is not advising people to stop eating ground beef, or for restaurants and retailers to stop selling it, the CDC is urging safe handling and thorough cooking of ground beef.
It recommends that consumers:
- Thoroughly cook ground beef and any food that contains ground beef to kill germs.
- Wash hands with soap and water after touching raw ground beef.
- Use hot, soapy water or a bleach solution to wash kitchen items that touch raw meat.
- Keep raw meat separate from foods that won’t be cooked before eating.
- Thoroughly wash countertops, cutting boards, plates, and utensils with hot, soapy water or a bleach solution after they touch raw meat to avoid contaminating other foods and items in your kitchen.
- Don’t eat raw or undercooked ground beef.
- Cook ground beef hamburgers and mixtures such as meatloaf to 160°F internal temperature.
- After cooking ground beef, refrigerate within two hours and use within three to four days.
- When ordering at a restaurant, ask that ground beef hamburgers and mixtures be cooked to an internal temperature of at least 160°F.
- Refrigerate or freeze raw ground beef within two hours after purchase, and use within one or two days.
- Store ground beef in a plastic bag on the lowest shelf of your refrigerator.
- Label meat packages with the date they were placed in the freezer and where the ground beef was purchased.
- The best way to safely thaw ground beef is in the refrigerator. Cook or refreeze within one or two days.
 
For more information about how to handle ground beef safely, call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-674-6854.