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Austin 4-H students take reins in research about E.coli

Two Austin Public Schools students are asking people an important question: Do you know how to prepare your food safely?

Brianna Klouse, an Austin High School freshman, and Maddison Hoesing, an eighth grade student from Ellis Middle School, teamed up for a project to highlight the importance of preventing food contamination and helping the community understand the seriousness of E.coli bacteria outbreaks.

For more than four months, the two cousins worked together on a project through the Mower County 4-H and the University of Minnesota Extension Service on E.coli bacteria through food contamination. Having heard about recent cases of E.coli outbreaks, Klouse and Hoesing wanted to learn more.

“It inspired us to do this project,” Hoesing said. “We heard so much about (E.coli outbreaks) during school. There are different places you can find E.coli bacteria like peanut butter, meat and vegetables.”

Klouse experienced salmonella poisoning several years ago, making her more cautious about how her food is processed and prepared. For her, focusing the project on food safety practices with the desire for more community information and awareness was personal.

“Going through this, the project made me more aware of precautions for when I cook,” she said. “I always make sure my beef is cooked all the way through. I’m more aware on how I prevent E.coli bacteria.”

Taking on a mentor through Mary Kruger at Ellis Middle School, Klouse and Hoesing began researching E.coli bacteria and what causes food contamination. They tested samples of cow manure, grew the bacteria in petri dishes and examined which test samples of distilled, well, and distilled bleach water grew the most E.coli bacteria.

The two girls even went to local businesses, such as the Tendermaid and Nick’s Meats in Hayward, to gather information from owners on how they handle food preparation as well as prevent cross contamination of food products.

“The Tendermaid makes sure that their meat is cooked until it reaches the safe 160 degrees, if it’s more, then they adjust it to meet the minimum, but it still is safe to eat,” Klouse said. “We found out a lot of people actually don’t use a meat thermometer.”

Taking on this project, Hoesing and Klouse were able to take a sample survey size of 100 people. From this, they learned that many people actually don’t know much about food safety and E.coli bacteria. To promote their research, the girls presented to various community organizations such as the Chamber of Commerce to share what they learned.

They even held a demonstration at a cookout to help people see the importance of food processing and safety and handed out flyers that showed proper cooking times and health practices to prevent E.coli bacteria contamination.

“There’s really no treatment or vaccines to prevent people from getting sick from E.coli,” Hoesing said. “There’s no vaccinations or antibiotics.”

What’s next for Klouse and Hoesing is to adjust their presentation and project before heading up to a state conference, where they will compete for various college scholarships depending how they place. Next year, the duo plans to continue researching E.coli bacteria in the community’s watershed and rivers.

Watching the two girls working together brought a lot of pride for Amanda Klouse, 4-H coach and Brianna’s mother, who noted how much research they did and time they committed to develop their project by their own initiative.

“The bond between these two actually grew from this project,” Amanda said. “They had so much fun working on it together, and they’ve truly bonded and developed a friendship. You can tell just by listening to them. It’s really fun to see that. It made me proud in seeing how much information they put into this project.”


Protecting from E.Coli

Safe Cooking Temperatures

•Poultry (chicken, turkey): 165 degrees fahrenheit to 185 degrees fahrenheit

•Stuffed meats and seafood: 165 degrees fahrenheit to 185 degrees fahrenheit

•Soups, stews and gravies: 165 degrees fahrenheit to 185 degrees fahrenheit

•Ground meats: 160 degrees fahrenheit to 185 degrees fahrenheit

•Whole meats and roasts: 145 degrees fahrenheit to 185 degrees fahrenheit

•Eggs: 145 degrees fahrenheit to 185 degrees fahrenheit

•Vegetables: 145 degrees fahrenheit to 185 degrees fahrenheit

Always remember

•Wash your hands

•Keep clean surfaces

•Use a meat thermometer

•Keep hot foods hot

•Keep cold foods cold

•Wash all fruits and vegetables

•Avoid cross contamination