The Essential Summer BBQ Accessory

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Along with ketchup, pickles, and buns, backyard barbecuers should be armed with something else this grilling season: a meat thermometer. Experts say it’s the only sure way to prevent a potential food poisoning disaster.

“The only safe hamburger is one cooked to 160 degrees,” says Nancy Donley, president of the nonprofit Safe Tables Our Priority, a food-safety advocacy group. “Research has shown color is not a reliable indicator.”

Donley learned about antibiotics could actually bring on HUS.

Most patients shake off E. coli poisoning within six weeks, Traceman says, but about 5% never do.

What worries Donley is that the E. coli situation may not have improved much, despite a number of well-publicized cases, including a 1993 outbreak linked to undercooked burgers from Jack in the Box restaurants and a spate of 1996 cases linked to Odwalla brand fruit juice.

The good news is that cases of food-borne bacterial illnesses have dropped 23% since 1996, according to the CDC. The four major bacterial food-borne illnesses — campylobacter, salmonella, listeria, and E. coli — dropped 21% in the past six years. Campylobacter infections dropped 27%, infections from Guillain-Barre syndrome, in which the body begins to attack some of its own nerves, with weakness and paralysis resulting.

The most common place to find campylobacter? Raw chicken. Cook it to 180 degrees on the meat thermometer, the experts say, and it’s safe to eat.