Q: Does cooking kill E. coli bacteria?
— Linda Sapp, Raleigh, North Carolina

A: The E. coli bacteria that can cause foodborne illness will die at 160 degrees. Just cooking something, however, might not be enough to kill the bacteria. A food item must be cooked to the proper temperature.

That means cooking hamburgers to well-done, as ground meat is one of the most common sources of foodborne E. coli.

The recent recall of flour due to E. coli contamination also means using extra care with baked goods. Even though cookies might bake in a 350-degree oven, they might not be in the oven long enough to reach 160 degrees, particularly for those bakers who like to pull their cookies out of the oven a little early to achieve a gooey center.

Because E. coli also can enter our kitchens in other ways, here is a helpful list of tips from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on how to prevent E. coli contamination:

— Wash hands thoroughly after using the bathroom or changing diapers and before preparing or eating food. Wash hands after contact with animals or their environments at farms, petting zoos, fairs or other outdoor locations.

— Cook meats thoroughly. Ground beef and meat that has been needle-tenderized should be cooked to a temperature of at least 160 degrees. It’s best to use a thermometer, as color is not a very reliable indicator of doneness.

— Prevent cross contamination in food-preparation areas by thoroughly washing hands, counters, cutting boards and utensils after they touch raw meat.

— Avoid raw milk, unpasteurized dairy products and unpasteurized juices such as fresh apple cider.

— Avoid swallowing water when swimming or playing in lakes, ponds, streams, swimming pools and backyard kiddie pools.

— Ask a food or cooking question by writing Ask Lisa at The Dispatch, 62 E. Broad St., P.O. Box 1289, Columbus, OH 43216; calling 614-461-5529; or sending email to labraham@dispatch.com, with “ Ask Lisa” in the subject line. Include your name, address and phone number. (Initials are printed on request.)