Americans have a persistent love affair with ground beef despite evidence including new tests from Consumer Reports that MOST ground beef has varying levels of bacteria and toxins that can make you sick and in some cases very seriously ill. According to the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta, GA, 28 percent of Americans still eat their ground beef rare or undercooked. This is part of the problem.
Exactly How Unsafe is Grocery Store Ground Beef?
Consumer Reports recently tested for various strains of bacteria in ground beef. The results were extremely disconcerting. All 458 pounds of beef they examined contained levels of bacteria that included fecal contamination which can cause blood or urinary tract infections in humans. Approximately 20 percent of the samples contained C. perfringens, a strain of bacteria that causes nearly a million cases of food poisoning each year. Some of these toxins cannot be destroyed—even at higher temperatures through proper cooking. Contamination can also lead to the more serious and deadly E. coli O157. For every case of E. coli O157 that is reported, it’s estimated that another 26 cases actually occur. Next time you hear of a stomach bug going around, you would not be reaching to wonder if it was a result of contaminated ground beef.
Here’s the problem
In a typical meat packing operation, a single contaminated animal can not only end up in many packages of ground beef, but it can contaminate the packing equipment affecting hundreds or even thousands of other packages produced in the same facility. Many health experts have warned consumers about the dangers lurking in ground beef for years; however, this new data suggests it isn’t a slight risk factor–it’s a major risk that needs to be taken seriously by health departments, consumers and food preparers alike.
If you must get your hamburger fix
Consumer Reports recommends that you look for sustainably raised beef whenever you can. This includes beef raised without antibiotics and preferably grass-fed organic; however, expect to pay a lot more than you’re accustomed to for the good stuff. For more very useful information on ground beef safety, read this Consumer Reports article on Ground beef safety.