The Danger of Hamburger Disease

Every year children become ill after eating hamburgers and other foods contaminated by bacteria, and over the summer cases of food poisoning soar. However it’s easy to avoid with a little care and a lot of cooking.

If your child eats food contaminated by bacteria, food poisoning can occur causing abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and fever. Several types of bacteria can lead to food poisoning including, among others, salmonella, which is most commonly found in uncooked meat and poultry, eggs, and unpasteurized milk.

Botulism can be a deadly food poisoning caused by bacteria often found in improperly canned food and sometimes, honey. Other bacteria that cause food poisoning are staphylococcus-aureus and clostridium-perfringens usually transferred by a food handler, making hand washing vital to healthy food preparation.

E-coli bacteria cause one of the most serious forms of food poisoning. Often referred to as ‘hamburger disease’, it can cause “the more serious form of gastroenteritis”, explains pediatrician Dr. Alisa Lipson. Generally a child will ingest e-coli “typically from undercooked hamburger meat, but it can come from other sources as well.” Hamburger disease can be deadly, so if your child is vomiting and has bloody stool, Dr. Lipson stresses you must call a physician immediately. “Children can die from it, and the other side of the coin is that they can completely recover and never look back. The dangerous part is that sometimes the kidneys get involved and children can go into renal failure. There’s other systems that can be involved but it’s usually the renal problems that are the long lasting ones.”

Infectious disease specialist, Dr. Ron Gold says prevention of hamburger disease is quite simple. First don’t let raw hamburger come into contact with any other uncooked food such as salads. Second, wash your hands well before and after preparing raw hamburger, and wash all utensils and countertops with hot, soapy water after they’ve come into contact with the raw meat. And make sure you store ground beef properly. Dr. Gold says “the problem with meat is that if the meat isn’t refrigerated or stored properly the bacteria can multiply so that you can get a lot of the toxins released, and then if the meat isn’t cooked properly you can get sick. We have to get out of the habit of eating rare hamburger. To be safe it should not be pink at all.”

Treatment for food poisoning can include antibiotics. But the best bet is prevention through cleanliness and through cooking the meat until it reaches an internal temperature of 71°C or 160°F. Finally, when you’re finished cooking, be sure to store those leftovers immediately, and when you go to reuse them ensure that they are thoroughly reheated before serving.


Adapted from The Parent Report Radio Show. Any advice or information contained herein should never be a substitute for professional and/or medical advice, diagnosis and treatment. For more information please review Terms of Service.

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