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A warning after bacteria makes Vt. burger lovers sick - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

A warning after bacteria makes Vt. burger lovers sick

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SOUTH ROYALTON, Vt. -

South Royalton's Worthy Burger draws accolades as one the best places in Vermont to get a burger. But the restaurant recently had to change what goes into its signature dish after at least six and as many as nine patrons fell ill.

"There is a little placard that's supposed to be in every restaurant and we have multiple here and they talk about consuming rare, raw or undercooked meats and so on. There's a risk involved with that," said Kurt Lessard of the Worthy Burger.

An ongoing investigation by the Vermont Department of Health and USDA indicates some who took that risk last month ate burgers carrying a strain of E. coli. Epidemiologist Bradley Tompkins says it appears the local meat carried the bacteria before being delivered to the restaurant.

"And then because it wasn't being cooked thoroughly, the diners were getting sick as a result," Tompkins said.

"Thoroughly cooked" translates to medium-well or well-done, prepared at temperatures E. coli bacteria cannot survive.

The restaurant briefly closed, but is now back open, after finding a new source for local grass-fed ground beef, and opting to take rare, medium-rare and medium-cooked burgers temporarily off the menu.

Lessard says despite the scare, customers aren't scarce.

"We've had a lot of support, both personally and on the internet and sites like that. And I think they've been really supportive. We're busy and we'll work our way through this," he said.

The health department suggests that restaurant-goers order medium-well or well-done meat when they go out. We asked people on Church Street if they plan to change their habits.

"Um no, because I've been a vegetarian for the past 20 years," Fran Duckworth of Middlesex said with a laugh.

"Honestly, I'm still going to get the exact same thing," said Ryan Wagner of Burlington.

"A little bit, yeah, for sure. I'm usually a medium kind of person, but I always liked going medium just to be sure," said Sydney Wolff, a freshman at UVM.

"I'll definitely do it, because that's what I always do. I never get a half-done burger," said Gene Seip of Erie, Pennsylvania.

"What's the point of eating a burger that's burnt to a crisp?" asked Cole Angley, a senior at UVM.

"The people who have gotten sick have been quite sick and so we don't want anyone else to go through that," Tompkins said.

The supplier of the meat is not being identified by investigators as they continue to look into the matter. Tompkins says illnesses have not been tied to any other restaurants at this point.

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