An outbreak of E. coli illness that’s sickened more than a hundred people across six states appears linked to tainted ground beef, although no specific product has yet been identified, federal health officials said Friday.
“Ill people in this outbreak report eating ground beef at home and in restaurants,” the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said. However, “at this time, no common supplier, distributor or brand of ground beef has been identified.”
Cases of gastrointestinal illness caused by the E. coli O103 strain of bacterium have now risen to 109 cases across six Eastern states, up from the 96 cases reported Tuesday.
Hamburgers, meatloaf and other ground beef meals are probably still safe to eat, the CDC stressed, and retailers can still sell ground beef in stores.
“CDC is not recommending that consumers avoid eating ground beef at this time,” the agency said. However, as always, “consumers and restaurants should handle ground beef safely and cook it thoroughly to avoid foodborne illness,” they added.
States now affected are Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, Tennessee and Virginia.
Cases of illness first began to be reported March 2, and the last reported case began on March 26. Although no deaths have been reported, 17 people have been hospitalized because their cases have been so severe, the CDC said.
The investigation is “evolving,” the agency said, adding that “traceback investigations are ongoing to determine the source of ground beef supplied to grocery stores and restaurant locations where ill people ate.”
This outbreak has been linked to E. coli O103, and the CDC says people typically get sick within three to five days of eating E. coli-contaminated food.
There are ways you can protect yourself, however. Be sure to wash hands while preparing food, and cook meats thoroughly.
“To kill harmful germs, cook beef steaks and roasts to an internal temperature of at least 145 degrees Fahrenheit and allow to rest for three minutes after you remove meat from the grill or stove,” the CDC advises. “Cook ground beef and pork to a minimum internal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit.”
Also, “wash hands, counters, cutting boards, and utensils” after touching raw meat, the agency said.
— E.J. Mundell