Heat resistant E. coli bacteria discovered in ground beef

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EDMONTON, Canada (WCMH) – The FDA recommends cooking ground beef to 160 degrees, but new research suggests that may not be enough to kill all bacteria.

Researchers at the University of Alberta say they discovered several heat-resistant strains of E. coli, a bacterium found in the gut of both humans and animals.

While not all strains of E. coli are harmful, the nasty strains can cause kidney failure or even death.

The researchers used a large collection of E. coli samples from beef to look for differences in survival at high temperatures.

Right away, they found a strain that survived more than 70 minutes at 140 F. Most E. coli is killed after just seconds at 140 F.

The heat resistant bacteria survived all the way past 160 F, the long-recommended safe cooking temperature for ground beef.

The genes associated with heat resistance were found in two percent of all E. coli.

“If it’s in two per cent of all E. coli, and in pathogenic E.coli, there’s the potential that a pathogen could survive the standard cooking protocols for ground beef. It could mean we have to change the guidelines for cooking meat, because 71 C (160 F) may not be enough,” said food microbiologist Lynn McMullen.

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