E. coli happens: cook burgers to 165F, whatever ruminant it came from

Seventeen years ago, Gregg Jesperson ate a burger that was still pink at a mom-and-pop restaurant in northern Alberta (that’s in Canada), where he and his family were living at the time.

The medication he’ll have to take for life is one reason why he’s not going to forget what happened anytime soon.

Jesperson, now a teacher at Booth Memorial in St. John’s, ate the burger on a Thursday.

By Sunday, it was determined Jesperson had developed hemolytic uremic syndrome, or hamburger disease.

Jesperson was hospitalized almost four weeks, undergoing dialysis and being hooked up to a machine that withdraws plasma and replaces it.

After his release, it took him almost a year to regain his physical strength.

Jesperson, who always enjoyed a rare steak, says he wasn’t aware of the dangers of uncooked hamburger meat before that.

“I’m a big fella, fairly hardy and that, and it really knocked the piss right out of me,” he says.

These days, Jesperson gets nervous when he sees people served burgers that are a little pink.

If he grills one himself, he “cooks the bejeezus out of it.”

His advice is to do the same, and not to be afraid to send undercooked burgers back at a restaurant.

Better advice would be to use a tip-sensitive digital thermometer because color is a lousy indicator of safety.

But this story is a lot better than the misguided letter-writer to a New Brunswick newspaper (also in Canada) who insisted dangerous E. coli like O157 only “grows inside of dairy and beef cattle that are fed a high proportion of grain.” Way to recycle a 15-year-old myth.