Food Safety, Preparation and Storage Tips
Cooperative Extension, College of Agriculture & Life Sciences, the University of Arizona

E. coli

Recently, you may have heard about a very potent bacteria called E. coli. There have been several outbreaks of food-borne illness with E. coli around the country. It can cause severe illness and even death-especially in young children. E. coli 0157:H7 is one strain that is particularly deadly.

This bacteria can be transmitted to meat during food processing and by unsanitary food preparation methods. Most outbreaks from E. coli have been found in undercooked hamburger.

Abdominal cramps, watery or bloody diarrhea and nausea and vomiting with a low-grade fever are symptoms of this illness. Symptoms begin about 3-4 days after the meat is eaten and can last up to 10 days. Severe cases require hospitalization.

E. coli can survive both refrigeration and freezing. Proper food handling and food preparation methods are absolutely essential to prevent this food-borne illness. However, thorough cooking can kill E. coli.

To prevent food-borne illness:

  • Cook all meat, poultry and fish thoroughly. Juices should be clear with no pink color.
  • Ground beef should be cooked to an internal temperature of 160° F.
  • Be sure all food cooked in the microwave is cooked in the center. Cut into it to check for doneness. Cover and rotate your food when using your microwave oven.
  • Send any meat, poultry or fish back when you eat out if it isn’t cooked thoroughly.
  • Drink only pasteurized milk.
  • Go directly home after shopping at the grocery store and put your food away. Don’t let your food sit in the hot car.
  • Thaw your food in the refrigerator-not on the kitchen counter.
  • Use ground meat within 1 to 2 days after you buy it and use frozen meat within 3 to 4 months.
  • Serve cooked meat on a clean plate with clean utensils-especially when grilling.
  • Wash your hands, cooking utensils and work areas with hot, soapy water after you’ve worked with raw meat. A sanitizer of one teaspoon of chlorine bleach in one quart of water can be used to wipe down your work area or to sanitize your utensils.

For questions on food-borne illness and safe food handling, you can call the USDA Meat and Poultry hotline at 1-800-535-4555.

Remember, proper cooking and food handling CAN control food-borne illness.


Material written by Mary Abgrall and Scottie Misner, June 1998.
Part of Food Safety Tips, College of Agriculture, The University of Arizona
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