The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service has issued a public health alert to remind consumers to ensure that meat products are fully cooked and properly handled before they are consumed.

Safe steps in food handling, cooking, and storage are essential to prevent foodborne illness. There have recently been reports of E. coli-related illnesses in California, Iowa, New York, Ohio, Michigan, Rhode Island and Wisconsin.

Consumers should follow the four "Fight BAC!" guidelines to keep food safe:


CLEAN: Wash hands and surfaces often

Wash your hands with warm, soapy water for 20 seconds before and after handling food. Wash your cutting boards, dishes, etc., with hot, soapy water after preparing each food item. Wash fruits and vegetables with cold water before using. There is no need to wash or rinse meat or poultry.

SEPARATE: Don’t cross-contaminate

Separate raw, cooked, and ready-to-eat foods while shopping, preparing, or storing. Never place cooked food on a plate which previously held raw meat, poultry, or seafood.

COOK: Cook food to proper temperatures

To be sure bacteria and pathogens are destroyed, cook ground beef products to 160 degrees F. Use a food thermometer to be sure!

CHILL: Refrigerate Promptly

Refrigerate or freeze perishables, prepared foods, and leftovers within 2 hours or sooner.