A New Twist Concerning E. Coli O157H:7
Barbara Young
In my July commentary, I shared “A true story” about a mother’s concern that her 20-month-old baby girl may have been exposed to E. coli O157:H7. Based on responses from some of you concerning the incubation period of this pathogen, clarification is in order. The following should suffice:
“As a mother and grandmother, as well as QA Manager of a grinding facility, these types of articles always interest me.
When I read the following line, I was appalled: ‘In the end, a poison-control center call provided the acceptable information that sickness would have been immediate if the meat was contaminated.’ One quick search on the CDC (Center for Disease Control) Web site would have given the poison-control employee the correct information. The incubation periods for two of the most common and deadly pathogens in ground beef, E. coli O157:H7 and Salmonella, are 1 to 8 days and 1 to 3 days, respectively.
Education is the most important tool in fighting foodborne illness in the home. That the poison-control center dispensed the wrong information shows how far we have to go to educate the public about this problem.
The beef industry has taken great strides in combating pathogens, and our food is the safest in the world. The chances of these pathogens being in the little girl’s mouthful of ground beef are miniscule. But as mothers, of course, we worry. I am relieved she suffered no ill effects.
As I stated, I am in the meat industry. Do I serve ground beef to my family? Absolutely! Do I cook it to 165 F? Again, absolutely!
Thank you for letting me bring this to your attention.”
Note: In fairness concerning poison control information, I would be remiss in not telling you that the mother who started this discourse was more relieved to hear that her child was in no danger than the exact duration of the incubation period for E. coli O157H:7.
See The National Provisioner’s July 2006 edition for my original editorial on the matter.