Sunday, August 4, 2013


I have just realized that while I have written some 38 blogs that deal with ground meat, I have never really explained why this type of meat is more likely to be contaminated with bacteria.

What prompted these thoughts today was yet another ground beef recall in the U.S. this past week. National Beef Packing Company, a Liberal, Kan., firm, recalled some 50,100 pounds of ground beef products because of possible contamination with E. coli O157:H7 . As we know by now, this is a very nasty bacterium. It can make you quite ill, and even send you to the hospital. Such recalls are not at all unusual. In fact, they happen every year.

Alright, one of the reasons there are so many reported issues with ground meat is that there is more of it around in our meals. The most popular form of beef eaten in the U.S., is ground beef or hamburger meat. It is used to make hamburgers, and present in taco fillings, pasta sauce, meatballs and so many other types of food. In fact, when eating out, Americans reportedly order a meal made out of ground beef almost half the time. But there is more to it than popularity.

Ground meat is also especially unsafe because of the way it is made. Bacteria are present everywhere in our environment, and animals carry a lot of them in their intenstines and on their bodies. While the slaughtering process is much more sanitary than it used to be, some of these bacteria can still contaminate the meat. The trouble is, if the pathogens are present on the surface of the meat when it is ground, the grinding process allows these bacteria to be mixed in throughout the meat. In the case of a steak, you can easily kill the bacteria on the surface during cooking, but in the case of ground meat, it's harder.

If the bacteria present in our ground meat are E. coli O157:H7 we could be particularly out of luck for three reasons. One, they can produce nasty toxins. Two, E. coli O157:H7 bacteria can survive refrigerator and freezer temperatures and can even multiply at temperatures as low as 44 °F (6.7 °C). And thirdly, it is believed that it takes only a few of these bacteria to make us ill, particularly in the case of children, older adults and anyone with a weakened immune system (on that topic - check out my earlier post on mold toxins).

Bottom line: if you are vulnerable, either avoid ground meat or cook it very, very well, and don't eat any foods made with ground meat when eating out.

To your good health,


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