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Script: Focus on Ground Beef

 

Intro:
Welcome to USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service podcast. Each episode will bring you cutting edge news and information about how FSIS is working to ensure public health protection through food safety. While we're on the job, you can rest assured that your meat, poultry, and processed egg products are safe, wholesome, properly labeled, and packaged correctly. So turn up your volume and listen in.

Host:
Welcome to “Food Safety at Home.” This is Kathy Bernard with the Food Safety and Inspection Service. I’m your host for this segment. With me today is Eileen Dykes, from FSIS’ Food Safety Education Staff. Eileen and I will discuss the safe buying, handling, storage and cooking of ground beef.

Hello, Eileen, welcome to the show.

Guest:
Thank you Kathy. I'm pleased to be here.

Host:
Whether it’s to make meatloaf or burgers to be cooked on the grill, ground beef is used in many dishes that fit in with today’s busy lifestyle.

Guest:
That’s right, Kathy, ground beef is a popular American food, and it has always been in the top five food topics of calls to the USDA’s Meat and Poultry Hotline.

Host:
It’s important to handle all meat and poultry safely but why is the handling of ground beef a special concern?

Guest:
Generally, ground beef is made by grinding beef trimmings with fat. Grinding tenderizes the meat and the fat reduces its dryness and improves flavor. However, when meat is ground, more of the meat is exposed to potentially harmful bacteria.

Bacteria are everywhere in our environment. Any food of animal origin can contain bacteria. Pathogenic bacteria, such as Salmonella, and E. coli O157:H7 can cause illness.

These harmful bacteria can not be seen or smelled. E. coli O157:H7 is a strain of bacteria that produces a toxin that can develop into an extremely serious illness. It can colonize in the intestines of animals, which could contaminate muscle meat at slaughter. Illnesses caused by E. coli O157:H7 have been linked to the consumption of undercooked ground beef.

Host:
What steps should people take to make sure the ground beef they are preparing is safely cooked?

Guest:
Since raw and undercooked ground beef may contain harmful bacteria, cook meat loaf, meatballs, casseroles, and hamburgers to 160°F before removing them from the heat source. The color of ground beef is not a reliable indicator of “doneness.” Be sure to use a food thermometer to check that it has reached a safe internal temperature.

Host:
It’s not only important to cook ground beef to a safe internal temperature but to handle it safely to prevent foodborne illness. This starts from the time you select it at the store. What advice can you give shoppers when buying ground beef?

Guest:
It’s important to keep several things in mind:
  • 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 go directly home from the grocery store. You may want to take a cooler with ice for perishables.

Host:
Those are all good tips. Can you discuss the significance of the “Sell-By” date on the package?

Guest:
Although not a Federal requirement, many products will have a sell-by date. The “sell-by” date tells the store how long to display the product for sale. You should buy the product before the sell-by date expires, refrigerate at 40°F or below, and use within 1 to 2 days of purchase.

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

Host:
A frequently asked question for the Hotline relates to the best way to thaw ground beef. Many people think that it is safe to thaw food on the counter. What is the best way to thaw ground beef?

Guest:
The best way to safely thaw ground beef is in the refrigerator. Keeping meat cold while it is thawing is essential to prevent growth of bacteria. Ground beef can be refrozen if thawed in the refrigerator.

To thaw ground beef more rapidly, you can use the microwave oven or cold water. If using the microwave, cook the ground beef immediately because some areas may begin to cook during the thawing. To thaw in cold water, put the meat in a watertight plastic bag and submerge. Change the water every 30 minutes. Cook immediately. Do not refreeze ground meat thawed in cold water or in the microwave oven.

Never leave ground beef or any perishable food out at room temperature for more than 2 hours.

Host:
Hamburgers are popular and easy to prepare. Many people like to cook them in the microwave. Are microwaved hamburgers safe?

Guest:
Yes, if cooked properly to destroy harmful bacteria. Since microwaves may not cook food as evenly as conventional methods, covering hamburgers while cooking will help them heat more evenly.

Turn each patty over and rotate midway through cooking. Allow patties to stand 1 or 2 minutes to complete cooking. Then use a food thermometer to check that the internal temperature is 160 °F.

Remember, when cooking and preparing dishes with ground beef it’s important to check the temperature with a food thermometer before removing them from the heat source. The safe minimum internal temperature to cook ground beef to is 160°F.

Host:
Another popular question to the Meat and Poultry Hotline is why pre-packaged ground beef is red on the outside and sometimes dull, grayish-brown on the inside. Should that be of concern? Does that mean the meat is spoiled?

Guest:
That can occur because oxygen from the air reacts with meat pigments to form a bright red color which is usually seen on the surface of meat purchased in the supermarket.

The pigment responsible for the red color in meat is oxymyoglobin, a substance found in all warm-blooded animals. Fresh cut meat is purplish in color. The interior of the meat may be grayish brown due to lack of oxygen; however, if all the meat in the package has turned gray or brown, it may be beginning to spoil.

Host:
You can learn more about ground beef by visiting the FSIS Web site at www.fsis.usda.gov. That’s www.fsis.usda.gov. Or visit us online for assistance from our virtual representative “Ask Karen” at Askkaren.gov.

Guest:
Consumers may also call our toll-free USDA Meat & Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline. That’s 1-888-674-6854

Host:
That’s it for this week. We’ve been talking to Eileen Dykes from FSIS’ Food Safety Education Staff. Thank you so much, Eileen, for your helpful guidance on the safe handling, storage and preparation of ground beef. I’m Kathy Bernard and I’d like to thank you for joining us for this episode of “Food Safety at Home.” And remember, “Be Food Safe.”

Outro:
Well, that's all for this episode. We'd like your feedback on our podcast. Or if you have ideas for future podcasts, send us an e-mail at podcast@fsis.usda.gov. To learn more about food safety, try our web site at www.fsis.usda.gov. Thanks for tuning in.


 

Intro:
Welcome to USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service podcast. Each episode will bring you cutting edge news and information about how FSIS is working to ensure public health protection through food safety. While we're on the job, you can rest assured that your meat, poultry, and processed egg products are safe, wholesome, properly labeled, and packaged correctly. So turn up your volume and listen in.

Host:
Welcome to “Food Safety at Home.” This is Kathy Bernard with the Food Safety and Inspection Service. I’m your host for this segment. With me today is Eileen Dykes, from FSIS’ Food Safety Education Staff. Eileen and I will discuss the safe buying, handling, storage and cooking of ground beef.

Hello, Eileen, welcome to the show.

Guest:
Thank you Kathy. I'm pleased to be here.

Host:
Whether it’s to make meatloaf or burgers to be cooked on the grill, ground beef is used in many dishes that fit in with today’s busy lifestyle.

Guest:
That’s right, Kathy, ground beef is a popular American food, and it has always been in the top five food topics of calls to the USDA’s Meat and Poultry Hotline.

Host:
It’s important to handle all meat and poultry safely but why is the handling of ground beef a special concern?

Guest:
Generally, ground beef is made by grinding beef trimmings with fat. Grinding tenderizes the meat and the fat reduces its dryness and improves flavor. However, when meat is ground, more of the meat is exposed to potentially harmful bacteria.

Bacteria are everywhere in our environment. Any food of animal origin can contain bacteria. Pathogenic bacteria, such as Salmonella, and E. coli O157:H7 can cause illness.

These harmful bacteria can not be seen or smelled. E. coli O157:H7 is a strain of bacteria that produces a toxin that can develop into an extremely serious illness. It can colonize in the intestines of animals, which could contaminate muscle meat at slaughter. Illnesses caused by E. coli O157:H7 have been linked to the consumption of undercooked ground beef.

Host:
What steps should people take to make sure the ground beef they are preparing is safely cooked?

Guest:
Since raw and undercooked ground beef may contain harmful bacteria, cook meat loaf, meatballs, casseroles, and hamburgers to 160°F before removing them from the heat source. The color of ground beef is not a reliable indicator of “doneness.” Be sure to use a food thermometer to check that it has reached a safe internal temperature.

Host:
It’s not only important to cook ground beef to a safe internal temperature but to handle it safely to prevent foodborne illness. This starts from the time you select it at the store. What advice can you give shoppers when buying ground beef?

Guest:
It’s important to keep several things in mind:
  • 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 go directly home from the grocery store. You may want to take a cooler with ice for perishables.

Host:
Those are all good tips. Can you discuss the significance of the “Sell-By” date on the package?

Guest:
Although not a Federal requirement, many products will have a sell-by date. The “sell-by” date tells the store how long to display the product for sale. You should buy the product before the sell-by date expires, refrigerate at 40°F or below, and use within 1 to 2 days of purchase.

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

Host:
A frequently asked question for the Hotline relates to the best way to thaw ground beef. Many people think that it is safe to thaw food on the counter. What is the best way to thaw ground beef?

Guest:
The best way to safely thaw ground beef is in the refrigerator. Keeping meat cold while it is thawing is essential to prevent growth of bacteria. Ground beef can be refrozen if thawed in the refrigerator.

To thaw ground beef more rapidly, you can use the microwave oven or cold water. If using the microwave, cook the ground beef immediately because some areas may begin to cook during the thawing. To thaw in cold water, put the meat in a watertight plastic bag and submerge. Change the water every 30 minutes. Cook immediately. Do not refreeze ground meat thawed in cold water or in the microwave oven.

Never leave ground beef or any perishable food out at room temperature for more than 2 hours.

Host:
Hamburgers are popular and easy to prepare. Many people like to cook them in the microwave. Are microwaved hamburgers safe?

Guest:
Yes, if cooked properly to destroy harmful bacteria. Since microwaves may not cook food as evenly as conventional methods, covering hamburgers while cooking will help them heat more evenly.

Turn each patty over and rotate midway through cooking. Allow patties to stand 1 or 2 minutes to complete cooking. Then use a food thermometer to check that the internal temperature is 160 °F.

Remember, when cooking and preparing dishes with ground beef it’s important to check the temperature with a food thermometer before removing them from the heat source. The safe minimum internal temperature to cook ground beef to is 160°F.

Host:
Another popular question to the Meat and Poultry Hotline is why pre-packaged ground beef is red on the outside and sometimes dull, grayish-brown on the inside. Should that be of concern? Does that mean the meat is spoiled?

Guest:
That can occur because oxygen from the air reacts with meat pigments to form a bright red color which is usually seen on the surface of meat purchased in the supermarket.

The pigment responsible for the red color in meat is oxymyoglobin, a substance found in all warm-blooded animals. Fresh cut meat is purplish in color. The interior of the meat may be grayish brown due to lack of oxygen; however, if all the meat in the package has turned gray or brown, it may be beginning to spoil.

Host:
You can learn more about ground beef by visiting the FSIS Web site at www.fsis.usda.gov. That’s www.fsis.usda.gov. Or visit us online for assistance from our virtual representative “Ask Karen” at Askkaren.gov.

Guest:
Consumers may also call our toll-free USDA Meat & Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline. That’s 1-888-674-6854

Host:
That’s it for this week. We’ve been talking to Eileen Dykes from FSIS’ Food Safety Education Staff. Thank you so much, Eileen, for your helpful guidance on the safe handling, storage and preparation of ground beef. I’m Kathy Bernard and I’d like to thank you for joining us for this episode of “Food Safety at Home.” And remember, “Be Food Safe.”

Outro:
Well, that's all for this episode. We'd like your feedback on our podcast. Or if you have ideas for future podcasts, send us an e-mail at podcast@fsis.usda.gov. To learn more about food safety, try our web site at www.fsis.usda.gov. Thanks for tuning in. 
 

 

Last Modified Nov 08, 2013