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Jewish Recipes --> Food and Health -- > Food Safety Education --> Focus on Ground Beef

You must consult Doctor on all health and medical and your Rabbi concerning all kosher and Jewish Law issues. This web site is for informational purposes ONLY.

Page 2: What is the safe food handling label now on meat and poultry packages?

A safe food handling label should be on all raw or partially precooked (not ready-to-eat) meat and poultry packages. The label tells the consumer how to safely store, prepare, and handle raw meat and poultry products in the home.

What kind of bacteria can be in ground beef? Are they dangerous?

Bacteria are everywhere in our environment. Any food of animal origin can harbor bacteria. Pathogenic bacteria, such as Salmonella, Escherichia coli O157:H7, Campylobacter jejuni, Listeria monocytogenes, and Staphylococcus aureus, cause illness. These harmful bacteria can not be seen or smelled.

When meat is ground, more of the meat is exposed to the harmful bacteria. Bacteria multiply rapidly in the "Danger Zone" temperatures between 40 and 140 F. To keep bacterial levels low, store ground beef at 40 F or less and use within 2 days, or freeze. To destroy harmful bacteria, cook ground beef to 160 F.

Other bacteria cause spoilage. Spoilage bacteria are generally not harmful, but they will cause food to deteriorate or lose quality by developing a bad odor or feeling sticky on the outside.

Why is the E. coli O157:H7 bacterium of special concern in ground beef?

E. coli O157:H7 can colonize in the intestines of animals, which could contaminate muscle meat at slaughter.

O157:H7 is a strain of E. coli that produces large quantities of a potent toxin that forms in the intestine and causes severe damage to the lining of the intestine. The disease produced by the bacteria is called Hemorrhagic Colitis.

E. coli O157:H7 survive refrigerator and freezer temperatures. Once they get in food, they can multiply very slowly at temperatures as low as 44 F. The actual infectious dose is unknown, but most scientists believe it takes only a small number of this strain of E. coli to cause serious illness and even death, especially in children. It is killed by thorough cooking.

Illnesses caused by E. coli O157:H7 have been linked with the consumption of undercooked ground beef. Raw milk, apple cider, dry cured sausage, and undercooked roast beef have also been implicated.

Can bacteria spread from one surface to another?

Yes. It is called cross-contamination. Bacteria in raw meat juices can contaminate foods that have been cooked safely or raw foods that won't be cooked, such as salad ingredients. Bacteria can also be present on equipment, hands, and even in the air.

To avoid cross-contamination, wash your hands with soap and hot water before and after handling ground beef to make sure you don't spread bacteria. Don't reuse any packaging materials. Use soap and hot water to wash utensils and surfaces which have come into contact with the raw meat. Don't put cooked hamburgers on the same platter that held the raw patties.

What's the best way to handle raw ground beef when I buy it?

At the store, choose a package that is not torn and feels cold. If possible, enclose it in a plastic bag so leaking juices won't drip on other foods. Make ground beef one of the last items to go into your shopping cart. Separate raw meat from ready-cooked items in your cart. Have the clerk bag raw meat, poultry, and fish separately from other items.

Plan to drive directly home from the grocery store. You may want to take a cooler with ice for perishables.

How should raw ground beef be stored at home?

Refrigerate or freeze ground beef as soon as possible after purchase. This preserves freshness and slows growth of bacteria. It can be refrigerated or frozen in its original packaging if the meat will be used soon.

If refrigerated, keep at 40 F or below and use within 1 or 2 days.

For longer freezer storage, wrap in heavy duty plastic wrap, aluminum foil, freezer paper, or plastic bags made for freezing. Ground beef is safe indefinitely if kept frozen, but will lose quality over time. It is best if used within 4 months. Mark your packages with the date they were placed in the freezer so you can keep track of storage times.


United States Department of Agriculture
Food Safety and Inspection Service
http://www.fsis.usda.gov
July 2002

Ground Beef - 1 - 2

Sept 2005 - 2014 - Kosher Recipes - Kosher Cooking - Jewish Cooking - Jewish Recipes - Jewish Foods