Ground beef is one of the few foods that can make me uneasy because I can't divorce the delicious joy of eating burgers from the very real fear of E.Coli contamination. While the odds suggest that a severe infection or death are highly unlikely, our current food safety system makes me weigh the benefits and risks in the same way I'd check to see whether a bungee cord operator really cares about whether I'm strapped in tightly.
This results in a binge-dieting-like approach to burger consumption, where I go weeks without a burger and then, over a few days, inhale every hamburger that's not nailed down. A burger doesn't sound so good today, in the wake of The New York Times' opus on the 2007 E.Coli outbreak. The story is full of stats that are difficult to digest -- like, more than 3,000 grocery stores in 41 states issued recalls of ground beef ... this summer.
According to the Times article, the main safety risks would appear to be
inadequate testing for E.Coli and the use of trimmings -- essentially
byproducts of meat and fat that are bought from slaughterhouses by some
major meat manufacturers. That remainder is then turned into patties
because it is cheaper.
Testing has been a point of contention since the 1994 ban on selling ground beef contaminated with E. coli O157:H7 was imposed. The Agriculture Department opted to carry out its own tests for E. coli, but it acknowledges that its 15,000 spot checks a year at thousands of meat plants and groceries nationwide is not meant to be comprehensive.While regulators and meat manufacturers sort through the process of testing and which cuts should be used, the Barf Blog offers a food safety sheet on how to properly handle ground beef. You still ready to take that leap?