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Beef and Bacteria

(Photo from Obama Foodorama)

WASHINGTON, June 28, 2009 - JBS Swift Beef Company, a Greeley, Colo., establishment is voluntarily expanding its June 24 Class I recall to include approximately 380,000 pounds of assorted beef primal products that may be contaminated with E. coli O157:H7, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced today.

Yes - VOLUNTARILY - that means that no one on the current 104 page list of shipped beef products under the recall is required to do anything!

Class I = you could die, children are especially at risk!!

This beef was shipped internationally as well as nationally.

Not so Swift!!!

Either throw your beef away or be sure to cook it to a minimum of 160 F to destroy harmful bacteria.

If you feel compelled to eat it in restaurants, order it well cooked.

Read the USDA News Release

Bacteria are everywhere in our environment and in humans and animals. Any food made from animals can have bacteria. There are both beneficial (probiotic) and harmful (pathogenic) bacteria. Harmful bacteria can not be seen or smelled!!!!

The requirements in the "Pathogen Reduction; Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) Systems" final rule are designed to minimize the likelihood of harmful bacteria being present in raw meat and poultry products. However, bacteria could be present and might become a problem if meat and poultry are not handled safely. To assist food handlers, the USDA requires that safe handling instructions be put on all packages of raw and not fully cooked meat and poultry.

E. coli O157:H7 is a strain of bacteria that produces a deadly toxin that forms in and causes severe damage to the lining of the intestine. This produces a disease called Hemorrhagic Colitis, and may cause bloody diarrhea.

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. E. coli O157:H7 is easily destroyed by proper cooking!!!

Salmonella, a bacteria with about 2,000 species can also be found in beef animals. Freezing wont kill it but cooking will. When ingested, it can cause an infection called Salmonellosis. This can cause fever, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal cramps 12 to 72 hours after infection. In most cases, the illness lasts 3 to 7 days and people recover without treatment. It, however, can cause diarrhea so severe as to dangerously dehydrate in which case hospitalization is required.

Bacteria can also spread from one surface to another. To avoid cross-contamination wash your hands with soap and hot water before and after handling 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.

Bacteria multiply rapidly in temperatures between 40 and 140 F. 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 your 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. Drive directly home from the grocery store.

Or, even better, buy locally raised, pastured beef and have them process, package, and freeze it.

Pastured beef is far less likely to contain harmful bacteria becuase they live on pastures rather than stand in their own feces all day in CAFOs (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations).

To keep harmful bacterial levels low at home, store ground beef at 40 F or less and use within 2 days, or freeze it. The best way to safely thaw ground beef is in the refrigerator. Keep meat cold while it is defrosting to prevent growth of bacteria. Cook or refreeze it within 2 days. Be especially careful with ground beef, because when meat is ground more of the meat is exposed to the harmful bacteria. Any bacteria on the outside of the beef will be ground into the inside.

To destroy harmful bacteria, cook ground beef to 160 F; never, ever eat it rare. If you crave rare beef, eat a steak. Cooking it over high heat will destroy the bacteria on the outside.

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.

Fortunately, I have 50 lbs of safe, grass-fed, pastured beef in my freezer.

EDIT: As of June 29, Whole Foods Market stores are not affected by the JBS Swift Beef Co recall.

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