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2002 News from Mecklenburg County

July 19, 2002  


Charlotte, NC – The Mecklenburg County Health Department reminds consumers of the following food handling and preparation information after the federal government's announcement of a nationwide beef recall. 

The recalled meat from the ConAgra Beef Company of Greeley, Colorado may have been contaminated with the potentially deadly E. coli bacteria.   Affecting 18 million pounds of hamburger-grade beef, this is the second largest recall of ground beef in U.S. history.   The Department of Agriculture says it is uncertain whether the meat was shipped to every single state, but classified the recall as "national in scope".   So far there have been at least 17 confirmed cases of illness in Colorado, one in Wyoming and one in South Dakota. 

"The message here is that people need to be particularly careful when cooking raw beef," says Dr. Stephen Keener, medical director of the Mecklenburg County Health Department. "This time of year, when we're cooking out more often, we need to be particularly aware of that." 

The Health Department's Food and Facilities Sanitation Program offers the following recommendations for consumers to prevent food-borne illnesses: 

·         Wash your hands thoroughly before handling or eating food and after using the bathroom, handling a pet, changing diapers, or anything else that might contaminate hands.

·         Wash your hands when you handle different food types to prevent cross-contamination.

·         Clean and sanitize any cutting boards or counters after preparing food.

·         Always marinate foods in the refrigerator; throw the marinade out after one use.

·         Use a meat thermometer to check for proper cooking temperatures high enough to kill possible pathogens in the meat.  Ground meats should be cooked until the thickest part of the meat measures at least 160F, poultry to 165F, and roasts to 145F. 

The E. coli bacteria come from animal fecal matter and generally find their way into meat at processing plants, often when an animal's intestines are punctured. Health experts have estimated that scattered instances of E. coli kill a few hundred Americans each year and makes thousands more ill. 

E. coli can cause abdominal cramps, bloody diarrhea and dehydration. Children, the elderly and people with damaged immune systems are most in danger of severe illness and complications. In extreme cases, it can be fatal. 

More food handling safety information can be found on the Health Department's Web site,, or click the following link: or by calling the Health Department at (704) 336-5100. 

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