A safe way to cook up burgers

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 1, 2005

Staff report

When the summer sun starts shining, patios and decks become home to barbeque grills, crowded with hamburgers. To keep the barbeque party a festive occasion for all who step up with a bun, the Virginia Department of Health urges charcoal chefs to thoroughly cook hamburgers to prevent illnesses from E.coli.

In Virginia, 11 cases of E.coli-related illnesses have been reported thus far this year.

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Ground beef is safe to eat once it has been cooked to an internal temperature of at least 160 degrees.

A grill thermometer is recommended to find out if a burger is ready.

Symptoms of E.coli usually appear two to four days after exposure. The illness often causes bloody diarrhea and stomach cramps.

Other symptoms may include vomiting, fever and chills. In a small percentage of cases, the infection can cause the kidneys to stop functioning, particularly in young children.

An ill person can spread the disease to others for three weeks or more.

To avoid E.coli, follow these tips:

Never eat rare or undercooked ground beef

Cook meat to 160 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. Color is not a safe indicator that the meat is well-done.

Do not drink unpastuerized meat.

Always wash raw fruits or vegetables before eating.

Always wash your hands with soap and warm water before and after preparing foods, and after using the toilet or changing diapers.

Wash cutting boards after meats have touched them and before using the same surface to cut fruits and vegetables. Use different boards for meat and vegetables.