As a dedicated meat eater, I love sitting down to a thick, juicy hamburger with a pink interior. Unfortunately, as discussed in a recent New York Times article, the flaws in US beef inspection and the subsequent rise in E. coli cases over the past few years curbed my enthusiasm for this typical American meal. Luckily, there are several ways to continue eating burgers without fear.
What is E. coli?
Escherichia coli, or E. coli, refers to a group of bacteria strains. The CDC says that while many E. coli strains are not harmful, others are potentially deadly. The most common harmful E. coli strain in the US is E. coli 0157. It has an incubation period of 3-4 days, meaning you will not develop symptoms until 3-4 days after ingesting the source. Symptoms include stomach pain, diarrhea, vomiting and fever. In rare cases, it can cause kidney failure, paralysis and death.
How can I avoid potentially unsafe meat?
Cattle fed a diet of grain are more likely to have harmful E. coli in their digestive system than cattle fed grass. The E. coli in grain-fed beef is more resistant to acid, meaning the bacteria is more likely to survive in a human stomach. Grass-fed beef also tends to contain less fat and some say it has a better taste. Check out Delicious Living’s tips on deciphering beef labels.
Another way to reduce your risk of infection is to give up eating beef “on the hoof” and cook it so that it reaches 160° F in the middle. Always be sure to thoroughly wash hands, cutting boards, counters, utensils and anything else the raw meat comes in contact with.