Extra labor going into holiday burgers after E. coli scare
August 30, 1997
Web posted at: 7:33 p.m. EDT (2333 GMT)
From Correspondent Cynthia Tornquist
NEW YORK (CNN) -- As Americans fire up their outdoor grills
for the traditional Labor Day cookout, meat industry analysts
are checking out the family menus. The nation's largest
ground beef recall was just a week ago. How many hamburgers
will be plopped onto the nation's grills?
From New York to San Francisco, Americans are expected to
down nearly 95 million burgers this holiday weekend,
according to the American Meat Institute.
But hamburger's reputation has been burned following the
recent outbreak of E. coli contamination in Colorado in which
more than a dozen people became ill.
"I'm afraid my family might get sick. I'm making hot dogs,
chicken and steak," said one Labor Day weekend cook.
But among many households, the pro-hamburger vote is expected
to prevail, despite the E. coli scare.
"This is America. How can you have a picnic without a
hamburger?" said one woman.
Safe burger preparation
- Take meat products straight home from the grocery store and
refrigerate them within half an hour
- Cook burgers to an internal temperature of 160 degrees
Fahrenheit (71 degrees Celsius)
- Use a meat thermometer to check the temperature. Meat
color isn't a reliable indicator.
- Always wash hands and utensils with hot soapy water before
and after touching raw meat.
- Put cooked burgers on a clean plate -- not the plate the
raw burgers were on.
The E. coli outbreak was traced to a Hudson Foods processing
plant in Columbus, Nebraska. Some 25 million pounds of
ground beef from that plant were recalled August 21.
For at least one New York packing company, the recall has
translated into fewer sales of meat products for hamburger.
"We see a little decline in the hamburger business because of
the scare out West," said meat processor Sam Farella. "But I
think that will pass."
While some shoppers have had second thoughts about buying
beef patties at the supermarket, there has been little effect
on the nation's butcher shops.
"We make our hamburger meat fresh several times a day, and
people know us as a reliable source," said butcher Ralph
In fact, since the recall, some people say they are more
inclined to visit the butcher's shop than the grocer's meat
"I would not just go, walk into a store where I've never been
and say, I want a hamburger, and not know where it comes from
and how it's handled," one woman said as she placed her order
at the butcher's.
The meat recall also has heightened consumers' awareness
about how to safely cook meat.
"I'm making sure that it's completely cooked, and that when I
prepare the meat, I make sure nothing else gets contaminated
by it," said one woman. "I'm taking precautions."
Another hamburger chef in San Francisco said he also takes
precautions against E. coli. "We have hot fires going all the
time, and we have a warmer that we keep them in until they
hit the steam table."
Many say they will take the extra effort to serve hamburgers,
because they are not about to celebrate the holiday without
one of America's favorite foods.