Ground Beef Safety Tips
Symptoms of E. coli O157:H7

Written by Diet Bites

Health Article: How to prepare ground beef safely.

While this health article will focus on ground beef preparation safety, these savvy tips can be used for any variety of raw meat.

Safe Cooking Temperature for Ground Beef

The ground beef should reach a temperature of 160 F. This is the degree with is considered as safe by the FDA guidelines and recommendations for ground beef preparation.

In addition, regardless of the color of the ground beef - when it is cooked to the 160 F mark, it should be considered as cooked-throughout; and regardless of color or how juicy the meat appears, it can be considered as safe to consume.

Why Safe Temperatures are Recommended

When ground beef is in its raw state - or before it reaches the 160 F mark, the harmful bacteria which is lodged inside the meat is still active. If ingested, it can cause serious illness, and even death.

Symptoms and side-effects of consuming ground beef which has not reached the safe 160 F mark include: diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal cramping, excessive sweating, pain, bloating and at times the diarrhea or digestive upset can be so formidable that blood in the stools may occur.

If the meat does not reach the safe mark amid the cooking stage, it can present these health issues to people of any age although young children, the elderly, and those with compromised immune systems are at the highest risk.

How to Ensure Ground Beef is Properly Cooked

There is only way to ensure that ground beef has been property cooked to a temperature that is high enough to kill harmful bacteria. It's not with the eyes - or even via the appearance of the cooked meat, rather by using a digital instant-read thermometer to determine an accurate reading.

Escherichia coli Bacteria in Ground Beef, Symptoms of E. coli O157:H7

One of the harmful bacteria that is a formidable foe is E. coli O157:H7 also known as Escherichia coli. E. coli resides in the intestinal track. It's also found in the intestines of animals.

The E. coli O157:H7 is the worst type of E. coli and make an individual deathly ill - and may also cause death.

Bloody diarrhea is accompanied with the illness and at times, kidney failure occurs - which requires emergency help via intensive care, blood transfusions and kidney dialysis. Fever does not have to be present in the affected patient.

The incubation period for  E. coli O157:H7 is one to ten days. If the kidneys are effected (HUS - hemolytic uremic syndrome), this generally occurs after about one week. Symptoms of HUS include a decrease in urine production, dark urine, tea-colored urine and facial pallor.

The duration of illness related to  E. coli O157:H7 generally lasts from five to ten days with most individuals feeling better within six to eight days.

To treat, the patient should drink plenty of fluids and rest as dehydration can easily occur due to the excessive diarrhea. If blood is noticed in the stools, then a doctor should be consulted. Antibiotics should not be used as a treatment regimen for  E. coli O157:H7.

Causes of E. coli O157:H7

This type of E. coli creates a toxin called Shiga which is very serious - and as noted, deadly.

Sources for the  E. coli O157:H7 include: unpasteurized raw milk (which is why it is illegal to sell raw milk), undercooked meats - particularly ground beef, unpasteurized juices, soft cheese that is make with raw milk, and vegetables - chiefly sprouts such as alfalfa sprouts.

Other causes include contaminated water sources such as swimming pools and untreated drinking water.

The feces of infected people can also cause  E. coli O157:H7.

Remember the last time that you visited a petting zoo? If so, you may remember the areas which contained solutions for the hands so that they could be cleaned after touching or petting the animals.

If the hands are not cleaned after handling the animals, an individual can get  E. coli O157:H7.

Animals that pose the most risk include goats, cows and sheep.

Consumption of a pink or red ground beef patty that has not reached a safe temperature of 160 F places the individual at a significant risk factor for foodborne illness.

Preventative Measures for E. coli O157:H7

- Ensure that meat is thoroughly cooked to the safe 160 F mark.

- Avoid consuming undercooked meat, raw milk and juices, soft cheese prepared with unpasteurized milk and alfalfa sprouts.

- If you have a baby or toddler and are in charge of diaper changing, be certain to thoroughly wash your hands; the same applies to kitty liter boxes - or after you've come in contact with cows, goats and sheep or other animals, including their living quarters and their food and treats.

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