August 18, 2022

Eating Plant Based Meat? You Must Still Cook it Thoroughly

Are you eating plant based meat? The USDA says that you must still cook all of these products thoroughly to 160°F, since any food can be contaminated with dangerous pathogens. In fact, food poisoning outbreaks linked to plants and plant products is quite common.

Eating Plant Based Meat? You Must Still Cook it Thoroughly

To show that many outbreaks are not necessarily linked to meat or poultry, just this year, there has been a Salmonella outbreak linked to shelled peas in Wisconsin, a Salmonella Senftenberg outbreak linked to Jif peanut butter, a deadly Listeria monocytogenes outbreak linked to Big Olaf Creamery ice cream, a hepatitis A outbreak linked to organic strawberries, and a deadly Listeria monocytogenes outbreak linked to Dole salads.

The market for plant based meats, especially replacements for burgers, is growing for several reasons. Some people buy them because they are vegetarian or vegan. Others believe they are better for the environment. These products appear to be minimally processed and healthier than meat or poultry burgers. And others may think that plant-based products are less susceptible to pathogens like Salmonella and E. coli.

But, according to John Luchansky, lead scientist at the Agricultural Research Services’s Food Safety and Intervention Technologies Research in Wyndmoor, Pennsylvania, there is little to no data on the safety of these types of foods. These qualifty of these products has improved over the years, but they can still harbor pathogens.

Anna Porto-Fett, a microbiologist and Luchansky’s research partner said in a statement, “In reality, plants can sometimes harbor high levels of foodborne pathogens and, as such, plant-based burgers should be considered and handled just like, for example, raw ground beef.”

So when you are cooking plant-based meat alternatives, such as veggie burgers, always handle them with care, avoid cross-contamination, and cook them to 160°F and check that temperature with a reliable food thermometer. Keep them stored according to package directions, and always refrigerate any leftovers promptly.

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