The Scripps Howard News Service reports that the the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service is warning consumers to take precautions when cooking meat, after 14 cases of E. coli infection was found across the country in the last six months.
The source of the pathogen has not yet been determined, but the FSIS hopes that the public health alert, urging consumers to adopt safe practices when handling raw ground beef and other foods, may curb consumers’ chances of infection.
Those practices involve cooking meat to an internal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit; proper washing of hands with warm, soapy water after handling food; and washing fruits and vegetables with cold water before using.
The CDC says E. coli O157:H7 is a dangerous foodborne pathogen that causes an estimated 73,000 cases of disease and 61 deaths each year, and can be lethal for young children or people with compromised immune systems. The pathogen was first identified in 1982, and outbreaks of illness have been linked most commonly to eating undercooked hamburger. But infections also have been linked to drinking raw milk, eating sprouts, or fruits and vegetables washed in E. coli-contaminated water.