All types of animal proteins have a certain temperature at which they should be cooked to kill off any potential food-borne pathogens. Ground beef has one of the highest temperature recommendations, since it has a great potential to carry bacteria. You may or may not get sick from eating a medium-rare hamburger, but just to be on the safe side, you’ll at least want to cook your children’s burgers to a safer temperature.
Typically a medium-rare burger is cooked to around 145 degrees Fahrenheit -- give or take a few degrees. Ideally though, you should cook ground burger meat to an internal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit, advises the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. If you’re reheating yesterday’s leftover burger, you should heat it up until it reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Always check your meat with a food thermometer before serving to make sure it is in the right temperature range.
What Could Happen
Escherichia coli, more commonly known as E. coli, is the major strain of bacteria that lurks around in hamburger meat. Between 2009 and 2010, E. coli outbreaks from beef accounted for 26 hospitalizations and three deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This bacteria can cause diarrhea, belly cramps, bloody stools, vomiting, nausea and a fever for as long as a week. E. coli dies at 155 degrees Fahrenheit, which is why the recommended minimum internal temperature of hamburger meat so high.
Concerns for Children
While your body will probably recover from the illness, it can be detrimental for your children. E. coli sometimes leads to hemolytic uremic syndrome, or HUS, which typically occurs in kids under 10 years of age, reports the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse. This disorder occurs when the foreign bacteria build a home in your young one’s intestines and send toxins into his bloodstream. Those toxins can mutilate red blood cells and blood vessel walls, leading to clotting problems. In severe cases, HUS can shut the kidneys down and impact his central nervous system.
Other Handling Considerations
The temperature to which you cook meat isn’t the only thing you need to worry about. You also need to pay attention to how it’s handled. Always store raw meat at the lowest point in your refrigerator, so juices don’t drip down onto ready-to-eat foods, like salads. Meat needs to be kept out of the temperature danger zone -- 40 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit, the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse reports. This zone is when bacteria multiply rapidly, leading to a possible outbreak. Lastly, make sure your refrigerator stays at that 40-degree mark or below at all times, so your food stays chilled and out of the danger zone.