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Hamburgers and Ground Beef Pose Risk of E.Coli

The Crusade Against Ground Meat

There's been a lot of talk in the media about E. coli contamination in ground meat lately, hamburgers specifically. First, The New York Times profiled Stephanie Smith, a young woman who was paralyzed after eating a contaminated hamburger. A week later, Larry King and CNN posed the question "Should Americans banish the burger"? The media is always reporting beef recall stories, which leave me a little freaked out about indulging in the occasional cheeseburger. How about you?

The argument against ground meat goes something like this: in slaughterhouses all sorts of things are flying around, including cow guts, which contain E. coli. Because slaughterhouse practices can be a little iffy, the E. coli can come into contact with the meat to be sold for consumption. Cooking a piece of contaminated steak usually kills the bacteria because the E. coli has only touched the surface, not actually penetrated the meat. The problem with ground meat is that E. coli can easily get onto every small bit of meat, making it harder to eliminate.

I'm not sure if I'm ready to completely banish the burger from my diet, but I do eat less meat these days. Besides being healthier for my heart, the sanitary conditions of large slaughterhouses worry me a bit. When it comes to eating meat I definitely try to follow certain guidelines. To learn them, continue reading.

  • Buy humanely raised meat. Studies show that grass fed cows have far fewer E. coli than those fed on grain — 80 percent less. And the small amount they do have is usually killed by the natural acids in their digestive tracts, unlike grain-fed cows.
  • Don't buy pre-ground beef. Grind it yourself at home or ask your local butcher to do it for you.
  • If you do buy pre-ground beef or beef from a major meat packing house, make sure to cook it thoroughly. Always cook meat to at least 160 degrees.
  • Wash your hands and all surfaces when handling meat.
  • Store meat properly — your refrigerator should be set to 41 degrees or lower and meat should be stored on a separate shelf away from other items.
  • Do not defrost meat on your counter or using hot water. Follow the USDA's guidelines for defrosting meat.
Image Source: Getty
Join The Conversation
Cheryl78 Cheryl78 7 years
It is sad but true, eating beef can be a little sketchy these days. I work with La Cense Beef, they are an all natural Grass Fed Beef ranch located in Montana. They produce some of the tastiest and healthiest beef around. I recommend that anyone who still likes the taste of beef, but would like to lessen their chances of getting sick and would just simply like to be healthy and help the environment in the process, make the switch to Grass Fed Beef.
turistachef turistachef 7 years
eating all animal flesh stinks...
tylergrl33 tylergrl33 7 years
eating red meat is absolutely horrible for the environment.
UFLauren UFLauren 7 years
Well, E. coli (O157) happens when you have a corrupt food governing agency. These animals live in their own feces and have it matted into their fur. Even if they were to be hosed off (which they aren't), their skins would still be crawling with pathogens, including O157 in many cases. They are 'processed' so quickly, that contamination to the meat is the rule, rather than the exception. Unil the food standards are raised in the US, save your self and your family and become a vegetarian. It's better for the Earth and is so much CHEAPER!
cotedazur cotedazur 7 years
This is so ridiculous. What is wrong with the United States and the FDA? Why can't they get their act together and make some of these guidelines stricter so Americans don't have to be afraid of stuff like E.Coli in their burgers and salmonella in their eggs? There are places in the world where food standards are set much higher and you can still eat steak tartare or raw eggs - the US should be one of them.
Allytta Allytta 7 years
they should address the issue of what they feed the cows. corn is the main reason the beef gets contaminated, buy grass fed and be safe
ellenp1214 ellenp1214 7 years
not to mention that if ONE cow has the bacteria, it's going to be spread to the meat of thousands of other cows because they all get ground together. this is not the case for steak, of course. you may be eating one burger, but you're eating the flesh of many.
Autumns_Elegy Autumns_Elegy 7 years
Modus Vivendi, my mum bought a hand grinder, it's so easy to make our own mince, and it pulls apart completely so its easy as to clean. We grind our own chicken mince, because so much of it out there is disturbingly fattty, and we buy our pork and beef mince locally, so we know it's fresh as and safe.
sarasonne sarasonne 7 years
Maybe the frequency of these extreme cases would be less if Americans didn't eat SO much beef. (I'm talking more than twice a week). I think it would do many positively healthy things if everyone cut back on cow consumption. Sorry farmers.
Vsugar Vsugar 7 years
Yay vegans!!
Pistil Pistil 7 years
Obviously there are precautions to take before you ingest anything, be it ground beef, poultry, vegetables, anything. The story about the contaminated hamburger is terrifying, but an extreme case.
InShapeMommy InShapeMommy 7 years
Opps, that should have been bread crumbs and MILK.
InShapeMommy InShapeMommy 7 years
My cousin, who watches lots of chef and cooking shows, told me that when making hamburger patties to add bread crumbs some mike to the ground beef. If you cook them to the suggested 160 degrees and with the added ingredients, there will be no room for bacteria to grow when grilling a burger.
Spectra Spectra 7 years
If you cook your burgers to 160F all the way through, you'll kill any E. coli that's present, even if it's all through the meat. I'd recommend cooking any burgers made with ground beef from a store/large processor very well done; if you like rare burgers, buy your own meat and grind it yourself or go to a local butcher and have them grind meat on the spot for you.
Kimpossible Kimpossible 7 years
ModusVivendi - I use the food grinder attachment on my kitchenaid mixer to grind my meat - it's not difficult at all. Spacekatgal I agree with you, I just have never been a big beef eater so I just stopped preparing it all together at home. I'm a fish and poultry gal.
Modus-Vivendi Modus-Vivendi 7 years
I haven't ever ground my own meat. Is it difficult?
nikkisoda nikkisoda 7 years
We buy our own cow from one of our friends who is a farmer. He only has a few each year and they are all grass fed.
lilxmissxmolly lilxmissxmolly 7 years
yay for veggie burgers and not having to worry about that crap!
Kimpossible Kimpossible 7 years
I don't cook with beef anymore, if my family wants beef they can order out lol. I do grind my own poultry though because this way I know exactly what's in it and it won't contain any bone fragments, fat etc. I have to say though that it thoroughly irks me that our society has become more concerned about money (ie: making it) than about health and safety.
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