Consumer Reports Asks: How safe is your Ground Beef?

Even though summer is about over, it does not mean that we put our grills away.  With fall comes football season, tailgating, and backyard cook-outs.   Many people grill all the way through the winter months.

Burgers and steaks are among many people’s favorite foods to grill. However, a new investigation by Consumer Reports warns of potential risks associated with these products.

Consumer Reports found “concerning levels of bacteria in hundreds of pounds of ground beef from across the country, (meaning) you might be putting yourself at risk if you don’t do some homework on how your beef was raised.”

“The average American eats 66 pounds of beef a year, with 42 percent of it being ground beef, according to industry statistics. Consumer Reports purchased 300 packages of ground beef from 103 grocery, big-box, and natural food stores in 26 cities across the country and tested it for five types of illness-causing bacteria. Out of the 300 packages, 181 were conventionally produced while the other 119 packages were categorized as sustainable.”

“The investigation found that 80 percent of conventionally-produced beef contained two of the five types of bacteria, while 60 percent of the sustainable beef was found to have two types of bacteria. The levels of two harmful bacteria, staphylococcus aureus and E. coli, were higher in the conventional beef because of how the cows were handled, according to Consumer Reports.”

The report concludes that people need to be reminded about safe preparation and cooking of beef products.

Here are their suggestions as taken directly from the report:

  1. Cook all ground beef to at least 160 degrees.

Anything under that temperature can potentially cause food poisoning by harmful bacteria. Unlike steak or roasts, where the bacteria tends to be on the surface, ground beef can have bacteria mixed throughout, which means you have to cook all the way through the middle of that hamburger.

  1. Make sure to wash your hands thoroughly after kneading raw ground beef to make burgers or meatloaf.

Bacteria can remain on your hands and contaminate anything you touch in the kitchen, from the counter to other foods you are preparing. Also, keep any raw beef from touching other foods on your countertop.

  1. Choose “grass-fed organic beef” whenever you can.

The report finds that beef raised as “sustainable,” where the cows are grass-fed and free of antibiotics, contain less instances of harmful bacteria than “conventionally produced” ground beef where the cows are raised on feedlots, fed grain, and given antibiotics.

No surprise, but the beef industry and the U.S. Department of Agriculture took exception to the findings.

“With regard to food safety, we really don’t see any differences in those two systems,” Mindy Brashears, a professor of food microbiology and food safety at Texas Tech, told NBC’s TODAY Show. “The beef industry in the US is safe. Whether it is a conventionally raised product, an organic or natural product — the consumer can have confidence that they have taken action to make the product safer over the past 10 years.”

Maybe that is some solace, but it goes without saying, to be safe, it’s best to follow the preparation instructions and careful handling precautions as outlined in the Consumer Report suggestions above.

It’s also true that, whether it’s beef, a drug, or another product available to consumers, there have been many instances of defective products that cause serious injury or even death.  Theodoros & Rooth should be your first contact if you believe that you or someone you know has been harmed by any product in the marketplace.  The initial consultation with attorneys at Theodoros & Rooth is always free, and there are no attorney fees unless we settle or win your case.  Theodoros & Rooth cares about the welfare of you and your family – and we have with over 110 years of combined experience in doing so.