Mystery E. coli source found, CDC says: Ground beef sickened 109 people in 6 states

The source of an E. coli outbreak in six states is likely ground beef, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday.

A total of 109 people have become ill from the outbreak; 17 have been hospitalized. No deaths have been reported and no cases of hemolytic uremic syndrome, a type of kidney failure associated with E. coli, have resulted from the outbreak.

Cases of E. coli have been reported in Georgia, Kentucky, Ohio, Tennessee, Virginia and Indiana.

The ill people reported eating ground beef at home and in restaurants but no common supplier, distributor or brand of ground beef has been identified as a source of the outbreak. That investigation is continuing.

“CDC is not recommending that consumers avoid eating ground beef at this time. Consumers at restaurants should handle ground beef safely and cook it thoroughly to avoid foodborne illness,” the agency said.

Symptoms of E. coli, which include stomach cramps, bloody diarrhea and vomiting that lasts for up to a week, typically appear anywhere from four to seven days after exposure.

CDC tips for handling ground beef:

  • Keep raw meat separate from foods that won’t be cooked before eating.
  • Wash hands with soap and water after touching raw meat and before touching other kitchen items.
  • 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.
  • Cooking ground beef:
  • Don’t eat raw or undercooked ground beef.
  • Cook ground beef hamburgers and mixtures such as meatloaf to 160°F internal temperature. Use a food thermometer to make sure the meat has reached a safe internal temperature. You can’t tell whether meat is safely cooked by looking at it.
  • For hamburgers, insert thermometer through the side of the patty until it reaches the middle.
  • Place the thermometer in the thickest part of the meat for foods like meatloaf.
  • For casseroles and for sauces that contain ground beef, such as spaghetti sauce or sloppy joe, check the temperature in several places.
  • After cooking ground beef, refrigerate within 2 hours and use within 3 to 4 days.
  • When ordering at a restaurant, ask that ground beef hamburgers and mixtures be cooked to an internal temperature of at least 160°F.
  • Storing ground beef:
  • Refrigerate or freeze raw ground beef within two hours after purchase.
  • If you refrigerate raw ground beef, use within 1 or 2 days.
  • Store ground beef in a plastic bag on the lowest shelf of your refrigerator.
  • If you break large packages of ground beef into smaller packages for freezing, wash hands with soap and water after touching the meat or its packaging, and before touching other surfaces.
  • Use hot, soapy water to clean the area where you divided the ground beef, including kitchen counters and utensils.
  • Label your packages with the date they were placed in the freezer and where you purchased the ground beef.
  • Thawing ground beef:
  • The best way to safely thaw ground beef is in the refrigerator. Cook or refreeze within 1 or 2 days.

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