E. coli scare has more cooks using more precautions to prevent foodborne illnesses

By: Trishna Begam Email
By: Trishna Begam Email

News 12 This Morning / Wednesday, June 13, 2012

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Fourteen separate cases of E. coli have popped up in recent weeks in six different states, including Georgia. Since the summer grilling season has started, families are trying to make sure their food is cooked properly and is bacteria free.

While at the grocery store, Linda Benson makes sure to stock up on meats.

"We do a good bit of grilling," she said. "I am the griller in the family."

All that grilling can cause some food safety concerns, too.

"I'll do chicken, pork and something beef, all that the same time," Benson said.

With more E. coli outbreaks, including five in the Atlanta area, Benson is extra careful with how she prepares her food.

"I think it's all in the way you handle foods," she added.

GHSU Retail Manager Todd Mell says E. coli is on the rise.

"We have fresh fruits and vegetables coming in from all over the world. Their inspections are not as good as the U.S.," he said.

Food investigators are still in the process of trying to figure out where the foodborne illness originated from this season. It can be anything from the vegetables to undercooked ground beef or any other meat product.

"When you touch something that is a food contact surface," Mell explained, "when you touch the faucet, touch the drawer, a knife, that becomes a contaminated area."

That's why sanitation is key. If the E. coli bacteria spreads, it can cause diarrhea and other severe symptoms.

"Ground meats should be at 155 to an internal temperature. Poultry chicken should be 165," Mell said.

If you don't have a thermometer, you need to get one.

"When I grew up, we ate them right out of the field. Never had a problem," Benson recalled.

Now she is extra cautious about keeping her family safe and healthy around the dinner table.

Some other things to remember this summer: Wash your hands each time you handle raw meat products and avoid raw milk or any other unpasteurized dairy product. If you're spending time in the water, avoid swallowing water from the pool, pond or lake.

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