July 6, 2020

If You’re Serving Kibbeh, Please Cook It First

Kibbeh is a dish from the Middle East and Africa that is traditionally served at some family celebrations. The variety known as Kibbeh nayyeh is prepared and served raw. And thus poses a risk of food poisoning.

Raw Ground Beef

The dish is made from red meat, onion, cracked wheat, and spices. Many people who prepare this dish do try to reduce the risk of bacterial contamination, such as cleaning the grinding blades and keeping the meat cold, there is no way to ensure that the product is free from pathogenic bacteria other than to cook it.

Any cut of beef or lamb could have pathogenic bacteria, such as E. coli O157:H7, on its surface. When this meat is ground, no matter where it is ground, whether the butcher or your home, the bacteria on the surface will be mixed all through the meat. No uncooked meat is safe.

Raw meat has been linked to many food poisoning outbreaks. In 2013, a multistate Salmonella Typhimurium outbreak linked to raw ground beef products sickened 22 people in 6 states. Half of those patients were hospitalized because their illnesses were so severe.

In that outbreak, seven of the patients ate raw ground beef kibbeh at the same restaurant before they got sick. The ground beef used to make the kibbeh was produced by Jouni Meats, Inc., and Gab Halal Foods. Those companies recalled about 1000 pounds of ground beef products after the outbreak was announced.

The bacteria that can be present on raw meat include Salmonella and various strains of E. coli. Food poisoning from Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) bacteria can cause serious illness and may lead to hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), which is a type of kidney failure. Young children are most at risk for developing this complication.

Ground beef is usually made from many different cuts of meat and beef trimmings. When these products are ground together, large batches can be contaminated. It only takes one contaminated piece of meat to contaminate a lot of ground beef. Just 10 E. coli bacteria are enough to sicken or kill a person.

Some cultures do eat raw kibbeh. It’s important to know that the only way to reduce the potential of serious illness is to cook ground beef and lamb to 160°F and measure that temperature with a reliable meat thermometer. Eating the raw version of this dish conveys a high risk of food poisoning.


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