This week’s edition of Food Safety Bloopers is all about Rachael Ray. If you’re interested in food safety, you probably already heard about this. Ms. Ray has just released a new book called The Book of Burger. She appeared on The View on Wednesday, June 6 to promote the book and made burgers for the ladies who host that show.
She told Whoopi Goldberg, who questioned the safety of her pink burger, that it was perfectly fine to eat burgers that are still pink. She said, “absolutely, 100 per cent; we made that grind ourselves. If you know the quality of your meat and buy something that says organic or grass-fed, you’re going to be fine if you like your burger a little pinker.”
It is not safe to eat any ground meat, whether it’s beef, pork, chicken, turkey, or lamb, unless it’s cooked well done. Locally sourced or organic beef still have bacteria that are no different from beef produced on factory farms, according to a study conducted by Purdue University. That study ends by saying, “data indicate that there are no clear food safety advantages to grass-fed beef products over conventional beef products.”
Pathogenic bacteria such as E. coli, Salmonella, Campylobacter, and Staphylococcus are on all cuts of raw meat. And when that meat is ground, the bacteria on the surface is mixed throughout the meat. In fact, one study found that 88% of all ground beef is contaminated with at least one type of bacteria.
The USDA says that all ground meat must be cooked to a “safe minimum internal temperature of 160 degrees F as measured with a food thermometer.” Judging doneness by the color of the meat isn’t a reliable indicator. The only way to make sure that your burgers are cooked properly is to use an instant-read meat thermometer.
Every day in the United States, on average, 350 people are hospitalized with complications of foodborne illness and 8 eight die from food poisoning.
In Ms. Ray’s magazine and in the book, all of her recipes for hamburgers direct her readers to cook hamburgers to “medium”. Or even “rare”. Undercooked ground beef is a major risk factor for E. coli infections. And those infections are the primary cause of hemolytic uremic syndrome among children in this country.
These are just a few of the foodborne illness outbreaks caused by undercooked ground beef:
- In 1993, the deadly Jack-in-the-Box E. coli outbreak from E. coli 0157:H7 in undercooked hamburgers sickened more than 700 people, hospitalized 171, and killed four.
- In 2001, four children in Georgia were sickened with E. coli 0157:H7 from undercooked hamburgers. This outbreak prompted a recall of Cargill ground beef.
- In 2008, a multi-state outbreak of E. coli 0157:H7 infections sickened 49 people in seven states. The source was ground beef from Kroger Supermarkets. In reporting that outbreak, the CDC gave this advice: “Because any raw ground beef can contain disease-causing germs, CDC and USDA-FSIS encourage consumers to use good food safety practices. Consumers should only eat ground beef or ground beef patties that have been cooked to a safe internal temperature of 160°F.”
- In 2011, an E. coli outbreak was caused by ground beef produced by Tyson Meats.
- In 2011, 19 people were sickened by Salmonella in Hannaford ground beef.
According to the CDC, most food poisoning cases go unreported, multiply those outbreak numbers by at least 30 to get the true number of victims in each of these outbreaks.