It's Your Health
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If you eat undercooked ground beef, it may result in a type of food poisoning that is commonly called hamburger disease. You can minimize your risks by handling and cooking raw ground beef properly.
Hamburger disease is caused by a specific type of bacteria called E.coli 0157:H7. E.coli live in the intestines of cattle, and can be transferred to the outer surface of meat when an animal is butchered. The process of grinding can then spread the bacteria throughout the meat. You can not tell the difference between contaminated or non-contaminated ground beef by the way it looks, smells, or tastes.
Two of the most common ways to come into contact with E. coli 0157:H7 are by directly handling raw ground beef without taking precautions, and by eating ground beef that is undercooked. People who get hamburger disease often report that they ate ground beef before they became ill.
You can also be exposed to this type of E.coli through other sources, including fermented (culture added) meats, unpasteurized milk, unpasteurized apple cider, unchlorinated water, and contaminated vegetables. In addition, you can spread the bacteria just by touching an infected surface, such as a cutting board in your kitchen, and then touching another surface.
People who become infected with E. coli 0157:H7 experience a wide range of health effects. Some do not get sick at all. Others feel as though they have a bad case of the flu, with symptoms ranging from severe stomach cramps, to vomiting, fever, and watery or bloody diarrhea. These symptoms usually appear within one to ten days after contact with the bacteria, and clear up within five to ten days.
Some people who get hamburger disease experience life-threatening symptoms, including kidney failure, seizures, and stroke. While most of these people will recover completely, others may suffer permanent health effects, such as kidney damage, and some may die.
By following some common sense guidelines in the way you handle and cook food, you can Fight BAC!®, and drastically reduce your risk of contracting hamburger disease and other foodborne illnesses.
Health Canada sets policies and standards governing the safety and nutritional quality of all food sold in Canada. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) enforces the policies and standards, ensuring that any foodborne illness is detected early, and that all necessary warnings go out to the public quickly.
As a founding member of the Canadian Partnership for Consumer Food Safety Education, Health Canada also participates in public awareness campaigns about safe food practices. One example is a program called Fight BAC!®, which encourages Canadian consumers to think of food safety at every step of the food handling process, from shopping for groceries, to re-heating leftovers.
For a video demonstration on how to handle hamburger safely.
For more Fight BAC!® tips.
For more information about Health Canada's Food Program..
You can also learn more about foodborne illnesses by visiting the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.
For additional articles on this subject and other issues go to the It's Your Health Web site. You can also call (613) 957-2991.