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FSIS Issues Alert on Importance of Cooking and Handling Ground Beef

WASHINGTON - Following an outbreak of salmonella, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service issued a public health alert to remind consumers of the importance of following food safety guidelines when handling and preparing raw meat.

The FSIS has been informed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) of an outbreak investigation involving 37 illnesses of salmonella typhimurium in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, and Vermont.

Many of the people who became ill have reported eating ground beef. Some reported eating raw ground beef. The FSIS is working with the CDC to determine the source of the contamination.

Food contaminated with salmonella can cause salmonellosis, one of the most common bacterial foodborne illnesses. Salmonella infections can be life-threatening, especially for infants, the frail or elderly, and people with chronic disease, with HIV infection, or taking chemotherapy. The most common manifestations of salmonellosis are diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and fever within eight to 72 hours.

Additional symptoms may be chills, headache, nausea, and vomiting, which can last up to seven days. Anyone concerned about an illness should contact a physician.

In an effort to reduce incidences of foodborne illness, The USDA works to educate consumers on the importance of following food safety guidelines. As a liaison to the Partnership for Food Safety Education, the USDA is involved in the Fight BAC! campaign. The goal of this campaign is to educate consumers on the following four easy steps they can take to decrease the risk of foodborne illness:

- Cook to a safe internal temperature. Ground beef should be
heated to 160 ?F.

- Separate raw and cooked/ready-to-eat food to prevent

- Clean your thermometer after using it. Be sure there are
plenty of clean utensils and platters on hand. Wash your hands often.

- At home, store leftovers in the refrigerator or freezer
within two hours of taking food off the grill. On hot days above 90 degrees F, refrigerate or freeze within one hour. Make sure the temperature in your refrigerator is 40 degrees F or below and 0 degrees F or below in the freezer. Check the temperature occasionally with a refrigerator/freezer thermometer.

Because color isn't a reliable indication that meat and poultry products are thoroughly cooked, a food thermometer is the only way to tell if food has reached a high enough temperature to destroy bacteria. The USDA recommends using a food thermometer to ensure that ground beef is cooked to an internal temperature of 160 degrees F and ground poultry to 165 degrees F.

Roasts, steaks, and chops of beef, veal, or lamb should be cooked to an internal temperature of 145 degrees F for medium rare and 160 degrees F for medium. Fresh pork should reach 160 degrees F. Whole poultry should reach 180 degrees F, as measured in the thigh.
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