This weekend, millions of backyard grills will sizzle and smoke with juicy hamburger patties, signaling the official launch of summer.
But as usual, there's a little food safety caution to keep in mind as you're tossing back a cold one and tending the fire: E. coli is back in the headlines.
The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports that a 7-year-old girl died on Sunday and several other people in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Illinois have become ill from complications of E. coli.
E. coli is one of the nastier foodborne bugs that sickens people unless it is killed during the cooking process. It can cause stomach pains, bloody diarrhea, and unfortunately, sometimes death.
Officials are tracing those illnesses to the recall, announced Thursday, of nearly 100,000 pounds of hamburger patties distributed by Valley Meats LLC of Coal Valley, Ill. They don't know the full extent of the recall's impact at this point, even though illnesses were first reported two months ago.
However, USDA has a list of the brands affected by the recall so far, so make sure you check your labels so you don't send your guests running to the bathroom or worse.
The recall comes at a time when food safety controls in this country are coming under increased scrutiny.
Speaking of diarrhea, the global health group PATH invited us to "Get the Scoop on Poop" and explore new approaches to address diarrheal disease at a cocktail party next week in Washington.
Hmm. Wonder what they'll be serving?