The E. coli food borne illness death of a 7-year-old girl in Cleveland has been linked to E. coli-tainted beef, which was recalled about a week ago. Valley Meats of Coal Valley recalled close to 100,000 pounds of ground beef patties tainted with E. coli last week. The recalled brands involve 3S, Grillmaster, J & B, Klub, Thick ‘N Savory and Ultimate. Three people in the Cleveland area are said to be recovering from food poisoning illnesses linked to the same E. coli contaminated beef. Health department investigators are looking into whether the beef was distributed to grocery stores or exclusively to restaurants. Many reports of illnesses have also come from Pennsylvania and Illinois, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Web site.

This food-borne illness was initially discovered through an epidemiological investigation of illnesses. Officials were alerted on May 13, 2009 to a cluster of E. coli O157: H7 infections in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Illinois. This particular strain of E. coli bacteria is a potentially lethal bacterium that can cause bloody diarrhea, dehydration and in the most severe cases, kidney failure. Very young people, persons with a weak immune system and the elderly are the most susceptible to food-borne illnesses.

With summer and BBQ season just around the corner, it is very important for us to be conscious about safe food-handling practices. Always wash hands with warm, soapy water before handling raw meat. Keep the raw meat away from other food that will not be cooked. Very importantly, ground beef and poultry must be cooked to a high enough temperature — an internal temperature of 160 degrees, which is enough to kill any harmful bacteria that are present. Also remember to refrigerate raw meat and poultry within two hours of purchase.

It is the responsibility of food manufacturers and food service providers such as restaurants and cafeterias to provide food that is safe for customers to eat. If you believe you have been sickened by food you purchased at a supermarket or at a restaurant, please file a complaint with a local health department. You would also be well advised to contact experienced food-borne illnesses attorneys, who will be able to advise you about your legal rights and possible course of action.