As we head into the holiday weekend, we are In the midst of another outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 related to ground beef. Remarkably, despite the prevalence of outbreaks and the severity of the risks involved, the proper messages on handling and preparing ground beef can still prove elusive.
I googled "e coli" this morning. One of the first sites up is this one, called FamilyDoctor.org. In two locations on its fact page on E. coli O157:H7 it suggests that the proper way to achieve or ascertain the safety of ground beef is to check color. (I don’t mean to single these folks out, I think the message is common elsewhere, as well.) Here is the relevant text:
How can I catch E. coli infection?
Most E. coli infections come from:
• Eating undercooked ground beef (the inside is pink
And, later on:
How can I keep from getting E. coli infection?
You can help prevent this infection by handling and cooking meat in a safe way. For your protection, follow these rules:
• Cook ground beef until you see no pink anywhere.
The problem is, we learned long ago that color is not a reliable indicator when it comes to ridding ground beef of E. coli O157:H7. Let’s get the better answer from the folks at Washington State University Extension, at their E. coli O157:H7 fact sheet site:
How Can I Safely Prepare Beef?
• Always cook ground beef patties to an internal temperature of 160ºF. When a ground beef patty is cooked to 160ºF throughout, it will be safe and tasty, regardless of color. Color is not a reliable indicator. Use an accurate instant-read thermometer inserted horizontally into the center of the burger. Ground beef is a perishable product. Use or freeze within one or two days of purchase.
So, this weekend, if you break out the grill and ground beef patties, use a thermometer, and not an unreliable visual inspection, to make sure you and yours stay healthy.