Nerds and nebulous: E. coli outbreak prompts recall of 1.8 million pounds of ground beef

Chapman had some good quotes in U.S. media yesterday about the beef recall from Wolverine Packing Company of Detroit, linked to E. coli O157 that has so far sickened 11 people in four states.

ben-newIt’s like we’re finally figuring out this time difference thing.

He told today’s the USA Today that the best way for consumers to reduce their risk is to avoid ordering undercooked burgers. Specifically, ask your server for a burger cooked to 160 degrees.

“If you just say ‘medium well,’ you might get 145 degrees or 170 degrees,” said Ben Chapman, a food safety professor at North Carolina State University. “The protection for consumers is being specific and maybe looking like a nerd.”

And he told Lynne Terry of The Oregonian, “Medium, medium rare, well done —  they’re all vague and nebulous. The best way is to ask that it’s cooked to 160.”

Chapman is currently involved in a USDA-funded study on E. coli in beef. He said some fast-food chains will only serve burgers that are cooked to 160 degrees following outbreaks, beginning with Jack-in-the-Box in 1993 when four children died and 600 were sickened by undercooked burgers tainted with E. coli O157:H7. But other restaurants put the onus on consumers. Sometimes servers warn patrons about the risk of food poisoning with undercooked burgers; sometimes they don’t.

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About Douglas Powell

A former professor of food safety and the publisher of, Powell is passionate about food, has five daughters, and is an OK goaltender in pickup hockey. Download Doug’s CV here. Dr. Douglas Powell editor, retired professor, food safety 3/289 Annerley Rd Annerley, Queensland 4103 61478222221 I am based in Brisbane, Australia, 15 hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time