A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from May 08, 2008
Barbecue Syndrome (Hamburger Disease: Barbecue Season Syndrome; Backyard Barbecue Syndrome)

"Barbecue Syndrome” (also commonly called “Hamburger Disease” and, less often, “Barbecue Season Syndrome") is a type of food poisoning. “Backyard Barbecue Syndrome” is completely different and involves problems with the swallowing of barbecued meats.

Backyard Barbecue Syndrome occurs when someone chokes on or can’t properly swallow a piece of meat. This can happen to older people who have dental problems and cannot properly chew the meat. Backyard Barbecue Syndrome was identified by at least 1976.

Hamburger Disease/Barbecue Syndrome/Barbecue Season Syndrome was popularized by a hamburger food poisoning outbreak in 1982 and a Jack-in-the-Box hamburger E. coli poisoning outbreak in the Seattle, Washington area in 1993. Hamburger Disease can result when a hamburger is not properly prepared and is undercooked, allowed a harmful strain of E. coli bacteria to thrive. Washing cooking utensils and cooking a hamburger to medium-well are good precautions against this disease.

Neither Backyard Barbecue Syndrome nor Hamburger Disease/Barbecue Syndrome is peculiar to Texas, but Texas is known for its barbecue and cases of these diseases can occur in the state.


Wikipedia: Escherichia coli O157:H7
Escherichia coli O157:H7 is an enterohemorrhagic strain of the bacterium Escherichia coli and a cause of foodborne illness. Based on a 1999 estimate, there are 73,000 cases of infection and about 60 deaths caused by E.coli O157:H7 each year in the United States. Infection often leads to bloody diarrhea, and occasionally to kidney failure, especially in young children and elderly people. Most illness has been associated with eating undercooked, contaminated ground beef, drinking unpasteurized milk, swimming in or drinking contaminated water, and eating contaminated vegetables. 
(...)
E. coli O157:H7 was first recognized as a pathogen as a result of an outbreak of unusual gastrointestinal illness in 1982. The outbreak was traced to contaminated hamburgers, and the illness was similar to other incidents in the United States and Japan. The etiologic agent of the illness was identified as a rare O157:H7 serotype of Escherichia coli in 1983. This serotype had only been isolated once before, from a sick patient in 1975.

Wikipedia: Jack in the Box
Food safety
In 1993, Jack in the Box suffered a major crisis involving E. coli bacteria. Some people (many of them children) died and others became sick after eating undercooked patties contaminated with the bacteria at locations in the Seattle area and other parts of the Pacific Northwest. The chain was faced with several lawsuits, each of which was quickly settled. Due to the backlash reaction to the crisis, Jack in the Box closed every single location in Colorado by May 1996. A food-safety initiative was put into place, including a new mandate that Jack in the Box hamburgers be cooked well-done instead of rare, as was previously the case.

30 October 1976, Cumberland (MD) News, pg. 11, cols. 4-5:
BACKYARD BARBECUE SYNDROME
L. V. from Dallas writes:
“We recently moved to Texas, and as you may know, backyard cookouts are a way of life down here. And although I really like the taste of barbecued steak, I learned the hard way that it can also be hazardous to eat. This is what happened; I was eating a piece of steak when I swallowed too big a piece. I didn’t actually choke, but the meat got stuck in my gullet. it was the most frightening thing that has ever happened to me. I tried drinking some water, but that just made matters worse.

“I finally had to be taken to the emergency room, where the doctors tried to remove the meat with a long instrument, but couldn’t. They finally had to drain off all the fluid, and then used some sort of solution to dissolve the meat enough to pass into my stomach. After this, I think I will stick to hamburgers or something easier to chew than barbecued steak.”

Your harrowing experience is not as rare as one would think. Although we hear more about the choking on meat, esophageal blockage with a large piece of unchewed meat is also fairly common. Usually the meat can be removed with an esophagoscope, a long hollow tube. A three-pronged retracting forceps is threaded through this tube, and the meat is pulled out. In some cases, such as yours, this may not be possible, and then we resort to dissolving the meat with papain, the enzyme used in many meat tenderizers. This may take several hours, and it is sometimes a good idea to follow this up with x-rays and other tests to see if there is some sort of obstruction of the esophagus. Also, poorly fitted dentures or bad teeth may make it difficult to chew properly. if this is the case, a trip to the dentist may be in order.

Palmer E: Backyard barbecue syndrome: steak impaction in the esophagus. Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), 235:1637, 1976. 

Google Books
Stress for Success:
A Holistic Approach to Stress and its Management

by Donald R. Morse and Merrick L. Furst
Van Nostrand Reinhold
1979
Pg. 127:
These attacks have been descriptively named “cafe cornonary” or “backyard barbecue syndrome.”

23 July 1989, Palm Beach (FL) Post, “Raw Burgers Poison 2,” pg. 20A:
A Winnipeg woman and her 1-year-old daughter are being treated for kidney failure blamed by Manitoba health officials on food poisoning from undercooked hamburgers.

The officials say the two are suffering from a recently discovered bacterial infection, nicknamed “the barbecue-season syndrome.”

22 June 1990, Miami (FL) Herald, pg. 5A:
OTTAWA—Federal health officials will check ground meat across the country this summer looking for the bacteria that cause so-called hamburger disease. 

August 1991, Health News:
Escherichia coli infections, due to one particularly virulent strain (#0157:H7), sometimes called “hamburger disease” or “BBQ syndrome,” are linked mostly ... 

Google Groups: rec.food.cooking
Newsgroups: rec.food.cooking, tor.eats, io.eye
Followup-To: rec.food.cooking, tor.eats, io.eye.d
From: (eye WEEKLY)
Date: 27 Jul 1994 15:25:51 -0400
Local: Wed, Jul 27 1994 3:25 pm
Subject: Summertime and the Food Poisoning Is Easy

SUMMERTIME AND THE FOOD POISONING IS EASY
HOW TO AVOID THE BACTERIAL HORRORS OF BARBECUE SYNDROME
by
CINDY McGLYNN
(...)
Undercooked meat is a common problem and one kind of food poisoning you can get is “BARBECUE SYNDROME.”

(By God, the names and descriptions of these critters are fabulous. Who will turn this article into the 3-D movie it longs to be?)

Anyhow, BARBECUE SYNDROME! Most people get it after eating hamburgers. Although the particular bacteria, VTEC, involved in this illness live in the intestines of animals, they can coat outer surfaces of meat. So when meat is ground, it can spread nice and evenly through yer entire burger.

Whaddayado? Don’t ask for a rare burger. Studies say VTEC is easily killed at temperatures hot enough to cook food.

You should also make sure all the surfaces and utensils you work with are clean. This way you can avoid another food-prep no-no, CROSS CONTAMINATION. If you throw your infected chicken on the
barbie and then, say, take your cutting board and knife to chop up a few potatoes for some salad, you’ve got yourself infested spuds.

Harvard Crimson
You Are What You Eat
Published On Tuesday, December 09, 1997 12:00 AM
By LISA B. KEYFETZ
CONTRIBUTING WRITER
If it’s true that you are what you eat, what does Harvard Dining Services (HDS) make you?
(...)
HDS uses only USDA Choice meats, cooked medium well to 165 degrees Fahrenheit to prevent dangerous bacteria such as E. coli. The FDA recommends that ground beef reach an internal temperature of 155 degrees Fahrenheit.

E. coli—the bacteria responsible for “hamburger disease”—produces a poison that damages the lining of the intestine. Common symptoms include dehydration, fever and stomach cramps, but severe complications can lead to death.

New York (NY) Times
The Countdown Begins; At the Shore, Time Is Running Out For Those Seeking Thrills or Romance
By BILL KENT
Published: August 23, 1998
FAMILIES bring their own set of contingencies during Desperation Weeks. Dr. Robert Sweeney, emergency room director at the Jersey Shore Medical Center in Neptune, calls it ‘’barbecue syndrome.’’

‘’This is the time of the year people start their end-of-the-year parties,’’ he said. ‘’More people are brought in for complications from over-enjoying themselves. They drink too much and get into a fight, or just fall down and break something. They burn themselves, cut themselves, come down with digestive problems from overeating, all the while telling me how careful they were to cook the hamburger until it was well-done. That, and these weekend warriors who haven’t done a thing all summer and think they can run 10 miles and work off all the weight they gained, make these are our busiest weeks.’’

Telegraph (London)
How to avoid that date with disaster
Last Updated: 12:01am BST /08/2001
(...)
June 3 - Severe Chills. Doctors call this “too early barbecue syndrome”. 

Medical News Today
Preventing hamburger disease
Article Date: 18 Jul 2004 - 11:00 PDT
Hamburger disease and barbecue syndrome are common names for a type of food poisoning caused by a germ known as verotoxigenic E.coli or VTEC. The germ causes illness by producing a toxin (poison) that can break down the lining of the intestines and also, in some cases, damage the kidneys.

Most outbreaks of so-called hamburger disease come from eating undercooked, contaminated ground beef (hamburger). But outbreaks have also been reported after eating or drinking unpasteurized milk, cheese or yogurt, cold cuts, unpasteurized apple juice or cider, or water contaminated with the germ. It is more common in the spring and summer than in the winter.

Google Books
An Invitation to Health
by Dianne Hales
Thomson Brooks/Cole
2005
Pg. 109:
“Hamburger Disease"/Barbecue Syndrome
Barbecue syndrome is the common name for a type of food poisoning caused by the bacteria , or VTEC. People who develop this syndrome frequently report that they ate ground beef hamburgers prior to getting sick. Otherkinds of undercooked meat and poultry and drinking unpasteurized milk or unchlorinated water als oare culprits.

As shown in Figure 5-6, a higher percentage of students eat pink hamburger meat, while fewer read of remember the labels on raw meat or poultry and change food preparation because of the information on the label.

Symptoms, which can range from mild to life-threatening, usually develop within two to ten days and include sever stomach cramps, vomiting, and a mild fever. Most people recover within seven to ten days. Proper handling and cooking of food can practically eliminate hamburger disease.

16 May 2005, Fort Wayne (IN) News-Sentinel, “Medical mix-ups sometimes yield surprising results” by Jennifer L. Boen, pg. 1F:
“Backyard barbecue syndrome,” caused when elderly people attempt to swallow overdone grilled meat, resulting in choking.

eDining.ca (Nova Scotia)
(POSTED: May 16, 2005)
About Food Safety: E.coli 0157: what is it?
Nova Scotia has one of the safest food supplies in the world. However, E.coli 0157 is still a real concern especially during the summer when barbecuing hamburger meat is so popular.
An estimated 18,000 Nova Scotians are infected with food poisoning every year. Many of the cases were linked to undercooked ground beef.

One of the worst culprits is E.coli 0157-- a bacteria that produces poisons that can attack the lining of your intestines and can be fatal. We encourage you to do your part this summer to prevent E.coli and read the information below. There are simple steps you should take to keep your family safe during this summer BBQ season.

E.coli 0157 is a strain of bacteria that produces a toxin that forms in and causes severe damage to the lining of the intestines. The medical name for the disease is Haemorrhagic Colitis. Once the bacteria gets in the food, they grow even at low temperatures. The actual number of bacteria that causes illness is unknown, but it is thought that it takes only a small number to cause serious illness.

It is sometimes known as “barbecue season syndrome” because it often occurs during the summer when people cook hamburgers on the barbecue and don’t cook the ground meat well enough.

Google Books
Prescription for Nutritional Healing
by Phyllis A. Balch
Avery
2007
Pg. 668:
HEMORRHAGIC COLITIS (HAMBURGER DISEASE)
Hemorrhagic colitis is a gastrointestinal illness caused primarily by a particular strain of bacteria known as Escherichia coli (E. coli) O157:H7. It is actually a type of food poisoning. (See FOODBORNE AND WATERBORNE ILLNESS in Part Two.) In fact, it is known as “hamburger disease” or “barbecue season syndrome” because outbreaks often are due to consuming grilled hamburger and other beef products that have not been thoroughly or properly cooked or handled.

While other types of E. Coli are common in the gastrointestinal tract of healthy people, the O157:H7 strain normally is not. This strain of bacteria produces extremely potent toxins which are the main cause of the symptoms related to the gastrointestinal illness. The most common symptoms of E. coli O157:H7 colitis include:
. Diarrhea (often with blood in the stools).
. Severe abdominal cramps.
. Vomiting.

Dallas (TX) Morning News - James Ragland column
My gut reaction to food illness
10:38 AM CDT on Saturday, April 19, 2008
Liz Hathaway is painfully aware of what some folks jokingly call the “barbecue syndrome.”

It’s Texas slang for food poisoning. Poor Liz got a bad dose of it herself at a cookout in June 1986.

“At one point, I couldn’t even keep down water,” the 52-year-old accountant said. “I was sick for three days.”

Posted by Barry Popik
Texas (Lone Star State Dictionary) • (0) Comments • Thursday, May 08, 2008 • Permalink