(WPTA21) — Health investigators are investigating an E. coli outbreak spanning 10 states that may be linked to ground beef.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said 156 people have been infected with the outbreak strain. 20 of these people have been hospitalized, but no deaths have been reported.
The investigation into the outbreak started on March 28, when officials in Kentucky and Georgia notified the CDC about the outbreak. Illnesses started from March 1 through April 7. People affected by the outbreak range from less than 1-year-old to 83-years-old.
While no common supplier, distributor or brand has been identified in the outbreak, a preliminary investigation suggests ground beef is the source.
The CDC is not recommending people stop eating ground beef. They are, however, telling consumers and restaurants to handle ground beef safely and cook it thoroughly to avoid foodborne illness.
The CDC provided the following safety tips for handling and cooking ground beef safely.
Wash hands with soap and water after touching raw ground beef. Use hot, soapy water or a bleach solution to wash kitchen items that touched raw meat.
- 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 External 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 the 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.