Two food safety and meat science experts from Kansas State University have released helpful information for consumers on the extensive food safety and regulatory measures currently set in place by the industry, as well as ways that consumers can do their own part to help protect themselves from foodborne illnesses.
“Ground beef is highly regulated,” said Kansas State meat scientist Travis O’Quinn. “Both the company that produces the product and the US Department of Agriculture(USDA) send it for microbial testing to ensure that no bacteria of concern, specifically pathogenic E. Coli, are in that product.”
Londa Nwadike, food safety specialist for K-State Research and Extension and the University of Missouri Extension, said consumers can further help to ensure the safety of their food by making sure not to cross-contaminate cooked meat or other ready-to-eat foods with raw or undercooked meat that could contain contaminates. Also, be sure to cook ground meats to an internal temperature of 160 F, and always use a meat thermometer; don’t only use color to gauge how “done” the meat is.
“Microorganisms don’t care what color the meat is,” said Nwadike, “they only care what temperature it’s been cooked to.”
At the store, consumers should look for the “best by” date on meat products, not the “sell by” date. Also, make sure the meat package isn’t torn, feels cold, and is kept away from other groceries in the cart to make sure no meat juices drip onto other foods. Nwadike suggests making the meat counter the last stop at the grocery store, and the grocery store the last stop before heading home.
“Overall, meat in the US is safe due to the standards of inspection in place by the USDA,” said O’Quinn, regardless of how the animals are raised or marketed.
A video on ground meat safety that features O’Quinn and Nwadike is available on the K-State Research and Extension YouTube Channel, which can be found here.