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BUTTE COUNTY, Calif. – A recent outbreak of E. coli poisoning at a Forest Ranch Volunteer Firefighter’s fundraising event raises questions about how the dangerous bacteria could be attributed to barbequed Tri-tip beef that was served. Twenty seven people became hospitalized after attending the September 6 event, one child requiring critical care at U.C. Davis in Sacramento.

The common understanding is that the risk of E. Coli contamination is not associated with "intact meats." Any E. coli bacteria found on the surface of these meats would be killed during the cooking process. Rather, the risk of E. Coli poisoning has been associated with ground meats, such as hamburger, where surface exposure to E. Coli becomes imbedded into the product during the processing.

William Marler, a well-known as a food safety attorney from Seattle, explained in a recent interview with the Chico Enterprise Record, that the U.S. Department of Agriculture follows this "intact" versus "ground" meat product distinction in its guidelines. Accordingly, "intact meats" are allowed into the markets, even if they have surface E. coli exposure. According to Mr. Marler, these meats are often subjected to "tenderizing" and other processes that allow the bacteria to penetrate the inner regions of the meat. Mr. Marler believes that the policy is "indefensible" and should be changed.

The Butte County Health Office has not issued its final report concerning the E. coli outbreak. We are happy to report that the young girl who was critically ill has been released from the hospital and is now at home.

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