E. Coli-Tainted Ground Beef Prompts Massive Recall, So If Ever There Was a Time To Go Vegetarian...

LAS VEGAS, NV - MAY 09: Pimento cheeseburgers and a white Russian milkshake are served at the BLT Burger booth at Vegas Uncork'd by Bon Appetit's Grand Tasting event at Caesars Palace on May 9, 2014 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images for Vegas Uncork'd by Bon Appetit)
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Now, fresh beef patties are top of our list for summer barbecues, but we're probably gonna hold off on the ground meat. Detroit-based meat distributor Wolverine Packing Co. recalled two million pounds of ground beef Monday following 11 cases of E. coli reported in four states. If you're considering going vegetarian, this may very well be the time to do it.

Wolverine Packing Co. issued a recall on all ground beef products produced between March 31 to April 18. The meat has been sold to restaurants in several states, including Michigan, Ohio, Massachusetts and Missouri. Luckily, none of the beef was used in the National School Lunch Program, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS).

E. coli is most dangerous to children, seniors, and those with weakened immune systems, and causes bloody diarrhea, dehydration, and if untreated, kidney failure. While most strains of the bacteria relatively harmless and live in our intestines, where it helps break down and digest food products, some varieties (like the one found in the ground beef) can be deadly. The most common cause of E. coli is eating undercooked meat, which bodes ill for those of us who like our steaks rare.

This year has presented several issues for food lovers. Last month, a disease that causes severe diarrhea in piglets caused a bacon shortage scare, and then we learned that Starbucks decided to stop buying coffee due to skyrocketing prices. Now that America's second favorite meat — chicken overtook beef for the top spot for the first time last year — has also been linked to a potential health crisis, it seems that no food is safe. 

One of the most famous E. coli outbreaks occurred more than two decades ago in 1993 at Jack in the Box. After eating E. coli ridden meat products at locations in Seattle, California, Idaho, Texas and Nevada, four children died and hundreds of other customers fell dangerously ill. Because the disease can also be transmitted by personal contact, the outbreak caused a national scare. But Jack in the Box recovered from their stained reputation by creating "Jack," who now haunts your fast food dreams along with the King from Burger King.

According to the FSIS, the recall falls under the "Class I" categorization, which means that the situation contains a "reasonable probability that the use of the product will cause serious adverse health consequences or death." However, due to the speed with which the problem was identified and the recall was issued, officials are hopeful that the cases have been contained.

To be cautious, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has warned that all meat products should be cooked thoroughly, and ground beef must be cooked to an internal temperature of 160 degrees. While that may not yield the juicy pink center you were looking for in your burger, a slightly more well-done piece of meat certainly beats a serious bacterial infection. So this summer, invest in a meat thermometer, and avoid contaminated ground beef. 



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