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  • The Red Scare

  • Red meat scares have become the order of the day. Raw meat is a breeding ground for millions of species of bacteria, and although most are not harmful, some can be deadly.

    One of the most familiar species is Escherichia coli. Some strains of E. coli are beneficial to humans as regular inhabitants of our intestinal tracts. One strain, however, E. coli 0157:H7, has been linked to an estimated 73,000 cases of food poisoning each year, and about 60 deaths. These bacteria produce a waste product that can lead to the failure of the kidneys and other organs.

    How It's Spread

    Typical contamination occurs when cuts of beef come in contact with feces from cattle or other livestock. If contamination is not detected by food inspectors or curbed by safe food handling practices in meat packing plants, contaminated meat ends up in restaurants and on meat counters. Here are some ways the bacteria can be spread:

    • Meat that hasn't been cooked well enough to kill the bacteria
    • Other foods which have come in contact with raw meat or meat juices
    • Improper hand washing practices
    • Unpasteurized milk or juice
    • Unwashed fruits and vegetables

    Symptoms

    Symptoms of E. coli poisoning include severe diarrhea (sometimes with blood) and abdominal cramps, with or without a fever. The infection moves quickly and sufferers usually recover in 5 to 10 days. For some people, particularly children and the elderly, symptoms are more severe and can lead to death.

    If you suspect E. coli poisoning, particularly in a young child, seek medical attention immediately. Diarrhea accompanied by blood loss should always be reported to your physician.

    Reduce Your Risk

    Here's how you can avoid E. coli poisoining

    Find out more:Another red meat scare-Mad Cow Disease