Finnish authorities have issued a warning after a number of E. coli infections were linked to hamburger patties.

The National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) and Finnish Food Authority (Ruokavirasto) were made aware of several E. coli infections earlier this year after people ate burgers. Municipal inspectors investigated cases locally and took food samples.

E. coli may be present in raw ground (minced) meat and medium-cooked ground meat so patties should always be eaten fully cooked, said the agency.

When handling raw meat, care must be taken to wash hands, utensils and surfaces to prevent the transfer of bacteria to ready to eat foods such as salads.

Advice in Finland is that meat must be appropriately cooked. Pork, all ground meat foods, such as hamburger patties and meatballs as well as meatloaf, should always be served cooked through.

There is a trend to serve medium cooked hamburger patties in some restaurants but most of the large fast food chains only serve them thoroughly cooked.

Some people don’t understand there is a difference between medium cooked ground meat and medium cooked whole steak. The USDA advises cooking beef, veal and lamb steaks to 145 degrees F (62.8 degrees C) and allowing it to rest for at least three minutes. For ground meat, the temperature is 160 degrees F (71.1 degrees C).

For outlets that serve medium cooked patties, Finnish authorities advise telling consumers about the E. coli risk, asking adults how they want their burgers and always serving fully cooked products to children.

Since 2016, an average of 200 infections have been reported to the Infectious Diseases Register each year. More than half of these come from abroad. Between 2001 and 2020, 5 percent of those infected with E. coli in Finland and interviewed mentioned they had eaten raw or undercooked meat before becoming ill.

Salmonella outbreak
Meanwhile, Salmonella Typhimurium was behind an outbreak in Jyväskylä that affected 450 people earlier this year, according to THL.

Mainly children at daycare centers were affected by the outbreak in June.

The same strain of bacteria was found in eight patients who became ill at the end of June and in a sample of a vegetable mixture containing fresh iceberg lettuce, cucumber and frozen peas from the central kitchen of the kindergartens. The most likely source was the lettuce from abroad, according to officials.

Other investigations took place in the town of Virrat and the municipality of Laukaa after people fell ill. The former affected 21 people in a care home and was caused by Campylobacter while the latter also affected a number of children in kindergartens.

In 2020, less than 200 Salmonella cases were reported to the Infectious Diseases Register in people that had acquired infection in Finland.

About E. coli infections
Anyone who has developed symptoms of E. coli infection should seek medical attention and tell their doctor about their possible food poisoning. Specific tests are required to diagnose the infections, which can mimic other illnesses.

The symptoms of E. coli infections vary for each person but often include severe stomach cramps and diarrhea, which is often bloody. Some patients may also have a fever. Most patients recover within five to seven days. Others can develop severe or life-threatening symptoms and complications, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

About 5 to 10 percent of those diagnosed with E. coli infections develop a potentially life-threatening kidney failure complication, known as a hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). Symptoms of HUS include fever, abdominal pain, feeling very tired, decreased frequency of urination, small unexplained bruises or bleeding, and pallor.

Many people with HUS recover within a few weeks, but some suffer permanent injuries or death. This condition can occur among people of any age but is most common in children younger than five years old because of their immature immune systems, older adults because of deteriorating immune systems, and people with compromised immune systems such as cancer patients.

People who experience HUS symptoms should immediately seek emergency medical care. People with HUS will likely be hospitalized because the condition can cause other serious and ongoing problems such as hypertension, chronic kidney disease, brain damage, and neurologic problems.

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