Ground beef may contain E. coli. Take precautions.

By Julie Jordan
Published April 17, 2019

If meals like hamburgers, spaghetti or meatloaf are some of your favorites, now is the time to remind yourself how to safely use ground beef. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has identified ground beef as the preliminary cause of a multi-state outbreak of E. coli that began in March. Cases of E. coli infection in Georgia total 17, but the nation has seen 109. No deaths have been reported, but 17 people have been hospitalized in the U.S.

People usually get sick from Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) three to four days after swallowing the germ.

Talk to your health care provider if you experience symptoms of E. coli infection:

  • Severe stomach cramps
  • Diarrhea (often bloody)
  • Vomiting
  • Possible fever
  • Possible kidney failure called hemolytic uremic syndrome

The investigation into the E. coli outbreak is ongoing. The CDC has not identified a specific supplier, distributor or brand of ground beef. Consumers and retailers are not advised to stop eating or serving ground beef.  

Take precautions with ground beef:

  • Handle ground beef safely
    • Keep raw meat separate from foods that won’t be cooked.
    • Wash hands with soap and water after touching raw meat and before touching other kitchen items.
    • Wash items that touched ground beef with hot, soapy water or bleach solution to avoid contaminating other foods.
  • Cook ground beef thoroughly
    • Don’t eat raw or undercooked ground beef
    • Cook at 160 degrees F internal temperature (and request this at restaurants). Use a food thermometer 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 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, refrigerate within two hours and use within 3 to 4 days.
  • 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.
  • Thawing ground beef:
    • The best way to safely thaw ground beef is in the refrigerator. Cook or refreeze within 1 or 2 days.