Safety First: A Quick Guide for Proper Handling and Preparation

No one enjoys being sick, but what’s worse than getting sick from a delicious family meal? Despite progress in safety for all food production industries, incidences of food borne illness and even product recalls are still a fact consumers must face when purchasing groceries or preparing dinner. While progress is being made on the production side of the plate to decrease the incidences of food borne illness, there are many things that can be done when handling and preparing beef to guarantee a safe eating experience.

Remember the Danger Zone: 40-140°F

Bacteria grow best in the temperature range of 40-140°F

Bacteria grow best in the temperature range of 40-140°F

Long story short: bacteria grow best at these temperatures so keep your beef and other meats cool or hot. This is why the meat case should be your last stop at the grocery store and why meat needs to be refrigerated or frozen. Remember that ground beef placed in the refrigerator should be used within 1-2 days and steaks and roasts within 3-5 to guarantee freshness and safety.

Wash your hands and utensils…and watch them too.

Before carving up a steak or forming hamburger patties make sure that you’ve washed your hands with warm soapy water. Also make sure any utensils and cutting boards as well as the counters are cleaned as well. It doesn’t do any good to buy a safe product and then contaminate it at home! Make sure that you assign certain cutting boards and utensils specifically for beef and other meats to prevent cross contamination to other foods you might also be preparing.

Follow proper cooking temperature guidelines to destroy any potential pathogens.

Follow proper cooking temperature guidelines to destroy any potential pathogens.

Give ‘em the heat

The single most important step that can be taken to ensure a safe beef eating experience is to cook your meat thoroughly. The process of cooking destroys any bacteria that may be present and proper cooking guidelines should be closely followed to guarantee that safe temperatures have been reached. Remember that while steaks and roasts need only be cooked to 145°F internal temperature, ground beef should always be cooked to a minimum of 160°F.

Store leftovers properly and use them quickly

Maybe you overestimated how many burgers to make or just couldn’t finish that steak. No worries! Store any leftovers in shallow containers in the refrigerator to help them cool off quickly and use them within 3 days. Just remember to reheat to correct temperatures and if you’re in doubt about whether some leftovers are safe or not, throw it out! It’s better to be safe than sorry!

Although outbreaks of food borne illness are still a fact of life, it’s important to note the progress that has been made to reduce incidences. The beef industry invests $400 million each year in testing and research to further improve beef safety and E.coli rates have plummeted significantly over the past decade. And just as beef producers are working hard to provide a safe product, there are many steps that you can take to guarantee the beef dinner your family enjoys is as safe as it is nutritious.

Will Pohlman

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