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How does E. coli get into meat?

Yesterday we blogged about how to kill E. Coli and other bacteria when cooking meat. Arloue on Facebook asked us, “How does E. coli get into the meat?" That’s a good question.

E. coli is a type of bacteria that lives in your intestines. Most strains of E. coli are harmless, but certain types can make you sick. E. coli also lives in the intestines of animals, especially cows, and can contaminate muscle meat during slaughter.

But E. coli isn’t limited to meat. Vegetables that are grown with infected manure or washed with infected water can make you sick. You can also get the infection by swallowing water from a swimming pool that is contaminated with human waste.

To prevent E. coli infections, cook meat well, wash fruits and vegetables before eating or cooking them, and avoid unpasteurized milk and juices. Make sure to wash your hands, counters, cutting boards, and utensils after they touch raw meat in order to prevent cross-contamination.

Find more information about E. coli infections on MedlinePlus.

How to Kill E. Coli and Other Bacteria when Cooking Meat

Man Cooking barbecue at the Festival of American Folklife: Washington, D.C.

Image description: Cooking barbecue at the Festival of American Folklife: Washington, D.C. Photo from State Library and Archives of Florida on Flickr.

Last month, the U.S. Department of Agriculture released new recommended cooking temperatures for meats. Here’s what you need to know to make sure your meat is free of harmful bacteria such as E. coli:

  • Cooking Whole Cuts of Pork: USDA has lowered the recommended safe cooking temperature for whole cuts of pork from 160 ºF to 145 ºF with the addition of a three-minute rest time. Cook pork, roasts, and chops to 145 ºF as measured with a food thermometer before removing meat from the heat source, with a three-minute rest time before carving or consuming. This will result in a product that is both safe and at its best quality—juicy and tender.
  • Cooking Whole Cuts of Other Meats: For beef, veal, and lamb cuts, the safe temperature remains unchanged at 145 ºF, but the department has added a three-minute rest time as part of its cooking recommendations.

Learn more about the recommendations and find tips on how to use a meat thermometer on’s blog.