FSIS Issues Alert on the Importance Of Cooking And Handling Ground Beef

WASHINGTON, Jan. 29, 2004 - The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service is issuing a public health alert to remind consumers of the importance of following food safety guidelines when handling and preparing raw meat.
Preparing Ground Beef For Safe Consumption

USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline 1-888-MPHOTLINE or visit www.fsis.usda.gov

Consumers should only eat ground beef patties that have been cooked to a safe temperature of 160 °F. When a ground beef patty is cooked to 160 °F throughout, it can be safe and juicy, regardless of color.

The only way to be sure a ground beef patty is cooked to a high enough temperature to kill harmful bacteria is to use an accurate digital instant-read thermometer.

Color is not a reliable indicator that ground beef patties have been cooked to a temperature high enough to kill harmful bacteria such as E. coli O157:H7.

Eating a pink or red ground beef patty without first verifying that the safe temperature of 160 °F has been reached is a significant risk factor for foodborne illness.

Thermometer use to ensure proper cooking temperature is especially important for those who cook or serve ground beef patties to people most at risk for foodborne illness because E. coli O157:H7 can lead to serious illness or even death. Those most at risk include young children, the elderly, and those with compromised immune systems.

FSIS has been informed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) of an outbreak investigation involving 37 illnesses of Salmonella Typhimurium in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York and Vermont.

Many of the people who have become ill have reported eating ground beef. Some reported eating raw ground beef. FSIS is working with the CDC to determine the source of the contamination.

Food contaminated with Salmonella can cause salmonellosis, one of the most common bacterial foodborne illnesses. Salmonella infections can be life-threatening, especially for infants, the frail or elderly and persons with chronic disease, with HIV infection, or taking chemotherapy. The most common manifestations of salmonellosis are diarrhea, abdominal cramps and fever within eight to 72 hours. Additional symptoms may be chills, headache, nausea and vomiting that can last up to seven days. Anyone concerned about an illness should contact a physician.

In an effort to reduce incidences of foodborne illness, USDA works to educate consumers on the importance of following food safety guidelines. As a liaison to the Partnership for Food Safety Education, USDA is involved in the Fight BAC!™ campaign. The goal of this campaign is to educate consumers on the following four easy steps that they can take to decrease the risk of foodborne illness:
  • Cook - Cook to a safe internal temperature. Ground beef should be heated to 160 °F.
  • Separate - Separate raw and cooked/ready-to-eat food to prevent cross-contamination.
  • Clean - Clean your thermometer after using it. Be sure there are plenty of clean utensils and platters on hand. Wash your hands often.
  • Chill - At home, store leftovers in the refrigerator or freezer within 2 hours of taking food off the grill. On hot days above 90 °F refrigerate or freeze within 1 hour. Make sure the temperature in your refrigerator is 40 °F or below and 0 °F or below in the freezer. Check the temperature occasionally with a refrigerator/freezer thermometer.

Because color is not a reliable indication that meat and poultry products are thoroughly cooked, a food thermometer is the only way to tell if food has reached a high enough temperature to destroy bacteria. USDA recommends using a food thermometer to ensure that hamburgers made of ground beef are cooked to an internal temperature of 160 °F; ground poultry to 165 °F. Roasts, steaks, and chops of beef, veal, or lamb should be cooked to an internal temperature of 145 °F for medium rare and 160 °F for medium. Fresh pork should reach 160 °F. Whole poultry should reach 180 °F, as measured in the thigh.

Consumers with food safety questions can phone the toll-free USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHOTLINE. The hotline is available in English and Spanish and can be reached from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (Eastern Time), Monday through Friday. Recorded food safety messages are available 24 hours a day.
Last Modified Jul 22, 2013