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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Health Scares Won't Halt Hamburger Craving

LINCOLN, Nebraska -- So a hamburger can kill you. So what?

Italians may have pasta, the French may have their wines. Americans love their hamburgers. And a recent contamination scare isn't going to change that.

"There's something about eating a big bite of hamburger," said Sam Ross, former manager of King's Drive In, a Lincoln, Nebraska, fast-food restaurant dating back to the 1960s. "It's something you can chow down on."

Since the 1940s, hamburgers have been America's favorite food, according to Nation's Restaurant News. There were 5.4 billion hamburgers and cheeseburgers served in commercial restaurants in 1996, that is up 3.8 percent from the previous year.

Ross said burger sales make up 75 percent of King's business -- about 300 burgers a day.

He said business did not slow even with the E. coli contamination scare that led to the recall of 11.36 million kilograms of ground beef from a Columbus, Nebraska, plant -- the largest meat recall in the nation's history.

No lag in beef sales was reported across the country, even though the contaminated hamburger sickened more than a dozen people in Colorado.

The hamburger's roots can be traced back to the tribes of Tartars living in the Baltic provinces in the Middle Ages. German trading partners developed the Hamburg steak -- fried beef seasoned with onions -- and brought it to America in the 1700s and 1800s.

While stories vary on just how the Hamburg steak evolved into the present-day hamburger, the hamburger as we know it today gained widespread attention at the 1904 World's Fair in St. Louis, Missouri, where it was said to be all the rage.