To Rinse Or Not To Rinse: How Washing Some Foods Can Help You Avoid Illness

Jill Neimark wrote . . . . . . .

This spring, millions of Americans worried that salad was no longer safe to eat: The U.S. was hit by the largest E. coli outbreak in a decade, with 172 people in 32 states sickened by contaminated romaine lettuce. Eighty-nine of those individuals were hospitalized, and at least five died.

Would rinsing lettuce have prevented the outbreak? Likely not, because the E. coli organism that caused the outbreak is so hardy that only a few bacteria are necessary to cause illness. And E. coli can survive in frozen or refrigerated temperatures. It is only destroyed through cooking or pasteurization, according to Colorado State University.

Rinsing does help prevent other illnesses associated with food. But it can sometimes cause more problems by splashing bacteria onto sinks and countertops. As summer and outdoor eating events beckon, here are some tips on what foods to rinse, how to rinse, and why.

Rinse your rice.

Rice is grown in flooded paddy fields, and naturally takes up arsenic in the water and soil. According to plant and soil scientist Andrew Meharg, author of the book Arsenic & Rice, soaking rice overnight, then rinsing thoroughly, reduces arsenic by up to half. If you wish to flush out another 30 percent of the remaining arsenic, cook the rice in five parts water to one part rice. In addition, rinsing rice helps remove some of the starch that can cause it to get gummy when cooking. Keep in mind that rinsing rice may reduce the levels of folate, iron, niacin and thiamin, by 50 to 70 percent, according to the Food and Drug Administration, and that the largest risk for arsenic exposure from rice is for those who eat it several times a day.

Rinse beans and grains, especially if you suffer from celiac disease.

Rinsing grains removes debris and dirt. Rinsing is especially important for those suffering from celiac disease. Recent studies, which NPR reported on last April, suggest that accidental gluten exposure, even among celiacs following a gluten-free diet, is more common than thought. One way to be “glutened” is through inadvertent cross contamination of a gluten-free food. Grains and beans may be grown near wheat, barley, or rye; they may also be rotated with those gluten-containing crops; or they may become contaminated during processing, transport and packaging. In fact, it’s even legal for some beans to contain stray grains: The Grain Inspection, Packers & Stockyards Administration allows lentils to contain a percentage of foreign grains.

Wash your produce thoroughly.

Back in 2005, dietitian Sandria Goodwin and her colleagues at Tennessee State University examined different home washing methods for produce. They found that soaking apples, tomatoes and lettuce in water and then rinsing thoroughly under running water significantly reduced the amount of microorganisms present. However, Goodwin tells NPR that, “Nothing makes produce completely harmless except sterilization (which changes quality characteristics), so if people want to consume raw foods, there is always a risk.” Case in point: the E. coli outbreak we mentioned above.

Don’t rinse your chicken.

As NPR reported five years ago, rinsing raw chicken before cooking it is a “bad idea, because it raises the risk of spreading dangerous bacteria found on raw poultry all over your kitchen” Back then, the advice provoked a “small #chickensh*tstorm,” since chicken washing was so common — even Julia Child recommended it, saying she thought it was safer. The advice not to rinse your chicken still holds today, according to Cleveland Clinic dietitian Laura Jeffers, who writes in a list of food prep do’s and don’t’s: “Any bacteria will be killed during the cooking process.” Cooking the bird to an internal temperature of 165 degrees is sufficient. Similar rules apply for all raw meat and for eggs: Don’t wash, but do cook to the appropriate temperature.

Other useful advice:

Clean your counter tops, cutting boards and utensils with hot soapy water before peeling or cutting produce. Wash your own hands with warm, soapy water for at least 20 seconds before preparing food. Use a vegetable brush to scrub produce with a hard rind or firm skin, such as potatoes, carrots, melons and apples. Make sure your washing water is at least 10 degrees colder than your produce, to inhibit bacteria further. Patting dry with paper towels helps reduce bacterial load. Chemical washes, bleaches or detergents are not recommended by the FDA, as produce may absorb them.

While our food supply is among the safest in the world, bad things sometimes happen. Most healthy people will completely recover from a foodborne illness within a short period of time.

Source: npr


No One Should Die from Eating Salad

Julia Belluz wrote . . . . . . .

No one should die from eating a salad. But over the past four months, five people have died and 197 have fallen ill across the country as a result of E. coli infections linked to romaine lettuce, most of it sold chopped and bagged.

According to a June 1 update on the outbreak from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly half of these food poisoning patients had to be hospitalized, including 26 people who developed a severe form of kidney failure. All told, the outbreak hit 35 states, with the five deaths occurring in Arkansas, California, Minnesota, and New York.

Eerily, almost the exact same scenario played out in the US a dozen years ago. In 2006, a giant E. coli outbreak linked to bagged fresh spinach sickened more than 200 people and killed three in 26 states. It also involved convenient packaged salad.

As I’ve reported, a 2013 analysis by CDC of food poisoning cases between 1998 and 2008 found that leafy vegetables — salads and the like — caused almost a quarter of all food poisonings. While the vast majority of the salad we eat is safe, leafy vegetables do cause more sickness than any other food product, including dairy and poultry.

Convenience salads are particularly risky. “Historically, the large E. coli outbreaks linked to leafy greens have all been [caused by] prewashed, chopped, bagged salads,” said Bill Marler, a prominent food safety attorney. “[These] mass-produced, washed, bagged, chopped leafy greens that get sent around the country have a lot more risk than people realize.”

It might be time to start rethinking whether packaged lettuces are really worth the risk.

Our salads today look very different from our grandparents’ salads

The salad we consume today looks pretty different from the salad our parents or grandparents ate. Instead of buying heads of lettuce that we wash and chop or rip up ourselves, over the past couple of decades, sales of precut and bagged greens have boomed.

These mixed greens wind up in our fridges or at restaurants already washed and ready to toss in a salad bowl. But during processing, bacteria living among the leafy greens has a moist environment in which to flourish.

“When you bag and chop [salad], bacteria just gets amplified — and when you ship it across the country, the bacteria has a chance to grow in the bag,” Marler explained.

That’s not the only reason salads are a major source of food poisoning. We eat them raw, which means there’s no cooking process to kill off pathogens. Contamination can also happen when lettuce is harvested, or from animals or water in the fields.

In this outbreak, a cluster of cases in Alaska were traced back to whole head lettuce, but the bulk of cases were caused by precut, packaged romaine. The packaging process also makes it more difficult to find the cause of contamination and prevent more people from getting sick. Different lettuces grown at different farms get mixed into bags that are distributed to supermarkets and restaurants all over the country, so food safety officials need to search for the common link among farms and suppliers.

That’s part of the reason the Food and Drug Administration announced last week that we may never know the precise cause of the romaine E. coli contamination. In an incredibly complicated diagram, it showed that a web of dozens of farms, processors, and distributors (all of which remain unnamed) were implicated in the current outbreak. Only the E. coli cases caused by whole head lettuce were traced back to a single farm.

Marler said this could signal that there’s an environmental problem in Yuma. Until the FDA figures out what the problem may be, it may be difficult to trust lettuce that’s grown there.

For now, at least one thing is clear: Greens from the Yuma growing region — the source of the outbreak — are not being sold or served any longer, since the growing season there is over. While that means it’s safe to eat romaine again, we may want to ask: In what form?

I asked Marler what lesson the public and health regulators could learn from these deaths, and he said that we need to understand that our love of convenience has also become a risk. When we eat salads that are prewashed and bagged, we increase our risk of food poisoning.

“Producers of romaine need to rethink the maybe the best way to do this is to send it as whole romaine and let restaurants wash it themselves,” Marler said. Salad eaters may also want to ask whether the convenience of packaged salad is worth the added risk.

Source: Vox

Opinion: Too Many Almonds May Be Dangerous To Your Health!

Evan Levine, M.D. wrote . . . . . . . .

I remember it quite clearly. When it hit me, it was as sharp and as sudden as a bullet from a gun. Just a day before I had noticed that my urine looked a bit amber and now I had this sudden, sharp pain in my flank: “You fool,” I told myself, “you have a kidney stone.” I was pretty sure that’s what it was, but to make sure, I had my wife drive me to the ER where a CAT scan clearly showed a rather large and calcified stone in my right kidney.

Renal stones (nephrolithiasis) are much more common than I would have guessed. In the United States in 2000, almost 2 million outpatient visits resulted in a primary diagnosis of kidney stones. While there are several types of stones, the majority of them, over 80 percent, are made up of calcium combined with oxalate.

After a week of waxing and waning pain; pain that many women who have had kidney stones have compared to their labor pains, and an $8,000 dollar visit to an ER (a future story), my urologist decided we should blast the thing out of my kidney by using focused sound beams. And so a few more thousand dollars later, with the use of the technique known as lithotripsy, my stone was broken into several sharp sliver like pieces that would pass, like, I suppose, real slivers of glass would, from me over the course of about a week.

For the few moments I had no pain, I began to wonder why I got these stones and if there was a way to prevent them. This was something I wasn’t hoping to have again. I wondered if there was some correlation, or association, between the foods I ate and why I formed this kidney stone. And so, when I had the strength to do so, I began searching through the medical literature. I found out that most stones are made up of calcium and oxalate but that the dietary Oxalate intake was far more important in causing these calcium oxalate stones. I might be a physician but I hadn’t the foggiest notion that calcium kidney stones were actually a combination of calcium and oxalate, and then it hit me like a ton of bricks, or better still, that kidney stone: I ate tons of almonds. OK, I ate ounces of almonds almost every single day, often as many as three small bags of roasted non-salted almonds. Could it be that I was loading myself up with oxalates when I was munching on almonds?

I ran to my computer, did the standard Google search, and came up with what I had expected; almonds are loaded with oxalates (just below Rhubarb and Spinach), and eating too much of them, like I did, was potentially the reason why I got that kidney stone. And not only were almonds loaded with oxalates but the oxalates in almonds appeared to be better absorbed, according to a one study published in the Journal of Urology, into our body when compared to other sources of dietary oxalate.

I had always thought that eating almonds, instead of the usual snacks, would be good for me. Almonds after all were loaded with fiber, might help lower your cholesterol, and had antioxidants. Even Dr. Oz seems to believe that almonds are good for you championing them as “The best snack of all.” “Because nuts are high in fiber and protein, they’ll satiate you so you’ll never be hungry. Because of my Turkish culture, I grew up eating almonds that have been soaked in water first. I still do that. It makes them taste completely different—very sweet,” Dr. Oz says.

What could go wrong? But as I read the Almond Board of California site (almost all the almonds grown in the states are grown in California) I wondered why they suggested everyone have a handful of almonds a day? Why not just say eat almonds and eat lots of them? Was this a carefully vetted statement?

Here is just one of several statements made on their site:

Of all the things to love about almonds, this one should really get your heart pumping: Just a handful of almonds a day may help you maintain healthy cholesterol levels. And that’s good news for just about everyone as cardiovascular disease holds its spot as the leading cause of death among men and women in the U.S.

California Almonds are cholesterol-free and low in saturated fat, making them a deliciously tempting option for smarter meals and snacks. And research is now showing they may also help maintain a healthy heart. In 2003, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration released a health claim recognizing that California Almonds can help you maintain a healthy cholesterol level. And no, you’re not dreaming.

Why do they keep saying a handful and why do they limit it to that amount? Do the almond growers know that eating too many almonds could be dangerous to your health? Are they afraid that perhaps the FDA would mandate that warnings be placed on foods loaded with oxalates, like almonds, because these foods might have some relationship or might even be causing thousands of us to form kidney stones and perhaps even worse, kidney failure?

I researched the topic even further. Eager to learn more I decided to see if the prevalence of kidney stones, the amount of people who had kidney stones in a given time, had increased over the past several years. What I learned is that the prevalence, in the United States, as well as most other nations, had about doubled in less than ten years: the incidence is about 1 in 11 people in the USA now.

Many experts, from what I read, seem to blame this epidemic of kidney stones with the increase in obesity and diabetes, which doctors say is associated with stones, while some even blame global warming; more sweating means more dehydration, higher concentration of calcium and oxalate in the urine and an increase chance for stones to form. No one seemed to consider that an increase in almond consumption (or other foods high in oxalates) may be the culprit.

I dug in more and took a look to see if almond consumption was up in the US. I found that the USDA calculates that almond consumption had doubled since 1994 and tripled since the 1970’s; with most people not eating almonds directly as I did, but in cereals, baked products and health bars. In other words many people are eating almonds and don’t even know they are.

While this was by no means a cause and effect relationship, things began to look quite suspicious. I came down with a calcium oxalate stone and the only risk I could find was that I ate a lot of almonds. Almonds contain the most important ingredient needed to form the most common type of kidney stone — oxalate. The prevalence of kidney stones has doubled since 1994 just as the consumption of almonds has doubled.

I then looked at how prevalent kidney stones might be in a country where, according to Dr. Oz, people grow up eating almonds. What I found was shocking! According to a study published on kidney stone disease in Turkey (an updated epidemiological study. Eur Urol. 1991;20:200–203), the incidence of kidney stones in Turkey in 1989, was 11.8 %. This would suggest that the country which appears to embrace almond consumption from the earliest ages also has the highest rate of kidney stones.

So in conclusion, please consider that almonds are chock full of oxalates, the most important component of kidney stones. As the intake of almonds has increased in the United States, and several other countries, the prevalence of kidney stones has also increased. In Turkey, where it is customary for even young children to eat almonds, the prevalence of kidney stones may be the highest in the world. Dr. Oz and others, who claim to be experts on health and diet, should be cautious when they suggest that their listeners, especially those who have a history of kidney stones, consume almonds as an ideal snack. Taking their advice might do more harm than good.

One has to wonder if the multi-billion dollar almond industry is aware that by hyping their product as a health conscious food, and without any warning of its potential risk, this huge and global industry could be contributing to thousands, perhaps millions, of their consumers developing renal stones.

My advice is to limit the quantity of almonds you eat and completely avoid them and other foods high in oxalates, if you have a history of calcium oxalate Kidney Stones. If the industry won’t add warnings voluntarily, I believe that it would be prudent for the FDA to require that a warning label be placed on packages of almonds noting that “increased consumption of almonds and other foods high in oxalates may significantly increase your risk of developing kidney stones.”

Source: The Leftist Review

Is the Ethylene Gas that is Used to Ripen Tomatoes Quickly in Supermarkets Safe?

Timothy S. Harlan, Dr. Gourmet wrote . . . . . . . .

Ethylene gas is produced naturally by most fruits, such as tomatoes, bananas, peaches, and avocados, and it promotes ripening. Most tomatoes today are picked green and transported unripe to protect them from bruising and spoilage. The green tomatoes are then ripened somewhat artificially by exposing them to ethylene gas. This is generally not done in the supermarket but at the produce distributors that supply local markets.

The early picking, transport and rapid ripening results in the inferior, mealy tomatoes that we have in our grocery stores today. In many cases you are better off using canned tomatoes for cooking than fresh.

It doesn’t appear that there is a danger. Keep in mind that the tomatoes naturally produce ethylene gas and are doing so there in the grocery (and on your kitchen counter). Interestingly, ethylene gas was once used as an anesthetic. Long term exposure to lab animals by ethylene gas did show some increase in risk of cancer, but studies of workers that are involved in professions using the gas do not.

It is very likely that it is just as safe for you to eat tomatoes that have been “gassed” as those that “gas themselves” with ethylene gas.

Source: Dr. Gourmet

Read also:

The Unsavory Story Of Industrially-Grown Tomatoes . . . . .

Colour of Cooked Ground Beef as It Relates to Doneness

The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has conducted a longstanding consumer education program on safe cooking and handling of meat and poultry. Proper food safety practices prevent situations that promote bacterial growth, cross-contamination, and foodborne illness. Thorough cooking destroys bacteria.

FSIS has long advised consumers to use a food thermometer when cooking meat and poultry to ensure that a temperature sufficient to destroy bacteria has been reached. In June 1997 FSIS expanded this recommendation to include ground beef patties. Pathogens (including Salmonella and Escherichia coli O157:H7) die when exposed to heat for a specific amount of time. Cook all raw ground beef to an internal temperature of 160 °F as measured with a food thermometer.

E. coli O157:H7 is a strain of bacteria that produces a toxin that can cause hemorrhagic colitis. This illness can develop into an extremely serious condition known as hemolytic uremic syndrome, which can cause kidney failure, brain damage, strokes, and seizures in young children and the elderly. E. coli O157:H7 has caused numerous sporadic cases as well as outbreaks of foodborne disease resulting in illnesses and deaths. This pathogen can survive both refrigerator and freezer storage. A number of E. coli O157:H7 outbreaks recorded since 1982 have been linked to undercooked ground beef as the primary source of infection.

The 1993 Western states outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 attributed to undercooked hamburgers served at a fast-food chain was a turning point. The outbreak sickened hundreds and was responsible for four deaths. While it was not the first outbreak of foodborne illness that the United States had experienced, it was a particularly difficult one for the public to accept; many young children became ill, and the food source was the traditional American hamburger.

In 1994, as a response to the outbreak, the USDA declared E. coli O157:H7 an adulterant in raw ground beef and initiated a monitoring program for E. coli O157:H7 in raw ground beef (testing confirmed that contamination occurs sporadically and at low levels). FSIS also initiated a program to encourage better controls and testing by industry, and required safe food handling labels on all raw meat and poultry products.

While working with industry to improve the safety of the food supply, FSIS has continued to promote food safety in the home. Since meat and poultry products can contain harmful bacteria, it is important that ground beef be cooked thoroughly. Future incidents of foodborne illness may be prevented if food handlers understand and act on a simple fact: Thorough cooking to an internal temperature of 160 °F throughout kills E. coli O157:H7.

Many food handlers and consumers believe that visible signs, such as color changes in the food, are indicators that the food is safely cooked. However, research has shown that color and texture indicators are not reliable. In particular, a 1995 study done by Kansas State University (Hunt et al, 1995) found that a sufficient number of ground beef patties were turning brown well before they reached 160 °F to make color an unreliable indicator of doneness. A consumer who believes a brown color always means a safe hamburger is taking a chance on foodborne illness.

Unfortunately data show that many consumers either do not own a food thermometer or rarely use one when cooking ground beef (FDA-CFSAN/USDA, 1998; Koeppl, 1998). Prior to June 1997, consumers who did not use a food thermometer were advised by FSIS to cook ground beef patties until the center and the cooked-out juices were no longer pink. Consumers were also advised to look for a firm “cooked” texture rather than a softer “raw or rare” texture in the meat.

However, research results raised questions regarding the suggestions for the visual checks for doneness (Hague et al, 1994; Hunt et al, 1995). Consequently, in June 1997 USDA issued a press release advising consumers to use a food thermometer when cooking ground beef patties, and not to rely on the internal color of the meat. Rather, consumers should cook ground beef patties to an internal temperature of 160 °F as measured with a food thermometer.

Color as an Indicator of Doneness

FSIS recognizes that there are two paradoxical problems with advice about using the color of ground beef to test for doneness and guarantee the destruction of pathogens:

  1. Some ground beef may appear to have lost all pink color before it is fully cooked. If raw ground beef is somewhat brown already, it may look fully cooked before it reaches a safe temperature.
  2. Some lean ground beef may remain pink at temperatures well above the 160 °F final cooking temperature recommended for consumers.

Browning Before a Safe Temperature is Reached

Cooked ground beef patties may appear brown before they reach a safe internal temperature. This is primarily caused by extensive oxidation of the fresh ground beef pigment and can occur, for example, with prolonged thawing of frozen ground beef, or refrigerator storage of thawed ground beef.

When ground beef is exposed to air, the ferrous iron in its myoglobin pigment is oxygenated to form a ferrous iron-oxygen complex. Myoglobin is a purplish-red color in its unoxygenated state, and becomes red when the iron complexes with oxygen to form oxymyoglobin. This is what gives fresh beef its red color. But if meat is stored for long periods of time, is stored above proper temperatures, or is exposed to too much air, the ferrous iron loses an electron to become ferric iron. The resulting ferric pigment, known as metmyoglobin, is brown.

Consumers associate bright red color with high quality (Lynch et al, 1986) and are frequently concerned when ground beef appears red on the outside and brown on the inside. Different levels of oxygenation at different locations inside and on the surface of the meat can account for this coloration (the grinding process allows air to contact more surface area of the meat). If ground beef loses contact with the air, as with the inside of the package of ground beef, it will turn grayish-brown. Likewise, as ground beef is stored, even for as little as one day, it might also turn prematurely brown (USDA-ARS/FSIS, 1998).

When ground beef is cooked, it changes color from red to pink to brown. If the meat is already brown, it will not change color during cooking. Recent research has shown some ground beef patties to look well-done at internal temperatures as low as 131 °F (Hague et al, 1994; Hunt et al, 1995; USDA-ARS/FSIS, 1998).

Raw meat from older carcasses can also be less red or darker in color, and can appear to be adequately cooked when it is actually still undercooked. When ground beef patties are made from a mix of older and younger carcasses, it has been found that the patties cooked to 131 °F are similar in color to patties cooked to 140 °F. Patties cooked to 150 °F have been shown to be visually indistinguishable from those cooked to 160 °F (Hague et al, 1994).

After reviewing existing research, FSIS initiated its own study to survey the prevalence of premature browning in cooked ground beef. USDA researchers prepared and cooked patties from ground beef purchased from various locations across the country. More than 25 percent of the fresh ground beef patties turned brown prematurely (“prematurely” was defined as before reaching the safe temperature of 160 °F). USDA research results presented at a May 27, 1998, public meeting in Arlington, VA, reaffirmed the Agency’s advice that color is an unreliable indicator of doneness. Consumers should use a food thermometer to be sure ground beef patties reach 160 °F (USDA-ARS/FSIS, 1998).

The USDA researchers found considerable variation both between and within beef patty formulations in endpoint temperature and color, even when controlled cooking procedures were followed. Therefore, unless a food thermometer is used when cooking ground beef patties, it is difficult for consumers to determine whether the patties are thoroughly cooked.

Persistent Pink Color in Cooked Meat Patties

There are several reasons why ground beef may remain pink at temperatures above 160 °F. This phenomenon is primarily associated with the pH and the level of pigment in the meat, as well as the fat content.

Normal fresh muscle has a pH ranging from 5.3 to 5.7. When thoroughly cooked, the myoglobin, oxymyoglobin, and metmyoglobin pigments of normal meat are converted (i.e. denatured) to denatured hemichrome, the grey pigment of cooked meat. Meat with a pH of 6.0 or higher can remain pink at 159.8 °F. The rate at which normal muscle pigments change to form the grey denatured hemichrome is affected by pH. The higher the pH, the longer the cooking time and/or higher the final internal temperature required for denaturation to be complete (Mendenhall, 1989). A high pH reduces the amount of myoglobin denatured by cooking, resulting in a pink color rather than the expected grey cooked color created by denatured hemichrome (Trout, 1989).

A high concentration of pigment also contributes to a red color in cooked meat. Meat coming from bulls typically exhibits both a higher pH and high concentrations of pigment. Mendenhall (1989) suggests that when patties are formulated from a mixture of bull meat, chuck, and beef trim with similar amounts of total pigment, there are significant differences in cooked internal color, indicating that the pH is responsible. But when pH is held constant, the concentration of total pigment contributes to the abnormal internal color. It was further shown that when cooked bull meat (pH 6.2) is compared to a mixture of bull meat, chuck, and trim (pH 6.2), the bull meat patty is significantly redder due to the higher concentration of pigment.

Most store-purchased ground beef is a mixture of meat from multiple sources (bulls, steers, cows, heifers) because ground beef is formulated to achieve a very specific fat content. Trimmings from many sources are combined.

A third factor affecting cooked ground beef color is the amount of fat in beef patties. Low-fat beef appears to have less conduction of heat than high-fat beef. Consequently, low-fat beef patties—including those that contain water, oat bran, carrageenan, and/or isolated soy protein—require longer cooking times and higher cooking temperatures to reach a certain internal temperature. Furthermore, patties can remain pink even though they have reached internal temperatures higher than the recommended 160 °F. In some cases, low-fat beef patties have not only taken longer than expected to reach the targeted end-point temperature but also maintained a pink color at temperatures of 160° to 165 °F (Berry, 1994; Troutt et al, 1992).

There is considerable variation both between and within beef patty formulations in endpoint temperature and color even when controlled cooking procedures are followed.

Advice for Consumers

  • To avoid foodborne illness, USDA recommends that meat and poultry be cooked thoroughly. Thorough cooking is most accurately measured by use of a food thermometer. The thermometer should penetrate the thickest part of the food. For a meat loaf or a casserole, it would be in the center.
  • Fresh or thawed ground meat should be used quickly, within one day. Consumers should either tightly wrap and freeze, or store ground beef for no more than one day in a 40 °F refrigerator.
  • The only way to be sure a ground beef patty is cooked to a high enough temperature to destroy any harmful bacteria that may be present is to use an accurate instant-read thermometer.
  • For ground beef patties, a digital instant-read food thermometer may be used toward the end of the cooking time and inserted at least ½ inch into the thickest part of the patty. If the ground beef patty is not thick enough to check from the top, the thermometer should be inserted sideways. If uncertain about the temperature reading, take a reading in a second location. Cook ground beef to an internal temperature of 160 °F as measured with a food thermometer.
  • The color of cooked ground beef can be quite variable. At 160 °F, a safely cooked patty may look brown, pink, or some variation of brown or pink.
  • When a patty is cooked to 160 °F throughout, it can be safe and juicy, regardless of color.
  • Eating pink ground beef patties without first verifying that the safe temperature of 160 °F is reached is a significant risk factor for foodborne illness (Kassenborg et al, 1998; Slutsker et al, 1998).
  • Consumers should not eat ground beef patties that are pink or red in the middle unless a food thermometer is used to verify the temperature.
  • When eating out, ask your server if ground beef patties have been cooked to at least 155 °F for 15 seconds (as recommended by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration Food Code), which is a safe option for restaurants or food service operations.
  • 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 who are immunocompromised.

Source: United States Department of Agriculture, Food Safety and Inspection Service

Read also at Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

Shiga Toxin-Producing E. coli & Food Safety . . . . .