Consumers Have A Role In Keeping Beef Supply Safe

ST. PAUL — The safety of our beef supply starts in the pasture and ends at the dinner table. That means that consumers have a role to play, as do producers, packers, retailers and food service vendors, says Lori Weddle-Schott of the University of Minnesota Extension.
calendar icon 31 October 2007
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Each year it’s estimated there are more than three million cases of foodborne illness in the U.S. The vast majority occur at the consumer level due to inadequate handling, cross contamination of raw meat products, and insufficient cooking methods.

Problems may start on the trip home from the grocery store. During transportation of 20 minutes or more in a standard grocer bag, temperatures of cold food products such as raw meat can begin to rise. Once a meat product leaves the store, it should be at room temperature or in the car for as little time as possible. Placing beef in a cooler or in the coolest part of the car will help maintain a safe temperature.

As a general rule, meat should be refrigerated at 40 degrees F or less, and frozen at zero degrees F or less. Use a thermometer—just because food items feel cool doesn’t mean the proper refrigeration temperature is being maintained.

Cross contamination is another safety concern, and the standard grocery bag is the place where it can start. Juices from raw meat products can drip onto other food products. This can be prevented by individually wrapping meat products and keeping them separate during transport. Cross contamination can also occur in the refrigerator (when meat juices drip onto other food products) and in kitchens through knives and cutting boards.

Cooking hamburger patties, steaks and roasts to a temperature of 160 degrees F will kill harmful pathogens. Use a meat thermometer—don’t guess or go by how the meat looks.

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