Food Safety Focus (10th Issue, May 2007) – Food Incident Highlight
E. coli O157:H7 in Meat Products
There have been product recalls overseas from time to time regarding meat products (in particular minced beef and beef hamburgers) contaminated with the harmful bacterium E. coli O157:H7.
E. coli O157:H7 is found naturally in the intestines of cattle and other animals like pigs and sheep. Affected people may develop symptoms like severe watery diarrhoea, bloody diarrhoea, fever, abdominal cramps or vomiting. Severe cases may develop haemolytic uraemic syndrome (HUS) characterised by acute kidney failure, some may even die.
Meat may be contaminated with E. coli O157:H7 on the surface from the slaughter process or subsequent handling. When meat is minced and then formed into hamburgers, or is mechanically tenderised, these surface bacteria will be brought into the inner part of the meat. Locally, ground beef served in hot congee which may not be cooked thoroughly is our concern.
Vulnerable groups (i.e. young children, elderly people, pregnant women and persons with weakened immune systems) should avoid eating raw or undercooked meat, especially minced meat and the products thereof. All meat, in particular hamburgers, should be thoroughly cooked to reach a centre temperature of at least 75°C.
Illustration: Minced beef