Are Burgers Safe to Eat?

After a large American recall of ground beef in October was expanded later in December, consumers are asking themselves if it is safe to consume their prized beef burgers at all? In short, the answer is yes! You can still enjoy a burger, meatballs or whatever beefy delicacy you're accustomed to. But keep in mind these beef dishes should be cooked to an internal temperature of 71 degrees celsius.

Raw beef can be contaminated by bacteria that cause food borne illnesses. By cooking the beef to the recommended temperature any present bacteria is killed off, making the beef safe for eating. Raw ground beef is especially susceptible to contamination so along with proper cooking, there are a variety of precautions that should be taken to prevent cross contamination and foodborne illness. Particularly because you can't tell if beef is contaminated by the way it looks or smells.

So, if you're looking to chow down on your favourite beef burger, keep in mind the following tips to ensure you stay safe.

Man using meat thermometer while barbecuing on a sunny day

Keep your raw meat cold - after purchasing your beef, make sure it is stored in a refrigerator until you're ready to prepare it. There is a greater chance of your beef growing bacteria if it is not kept at a temperature below 4 degree celsius (40 degrees fahrenheit). The temperature range above 4 degrees and below 60 degrees celsius is considered a danger zone for bacteria growth.

Wash your hands - a significant amount of cross contamination happens when hands are not washed after raw beef is handled. Hands should immediately be washed before handling any other products, utensils or food once you've come in contact with raw beef. This will rid your hands of any possible contaminants that may be present on the raw beef, and keep you from spreading the bacteria to other areas of the kitchen.

Handle groceries with care - Your beef packaging may leak and spread fluids to other unintended areas. Separate meat from the rest of your groceries by placing it in separate grocery bags. If you're using reusable grocery bags, wash them frequently and consider making one specific for carrying your meat.

Consider the refrigerator - The refrigerator is the best place to store, marinate and thaw your beef while it waits for cooking. However, the placement of the beef is key to keeping it and other products safe. Make sure the beef is stored in a place that won't allow it to leak onto other areas, ideally on the bottom of the fridge. And remember to clean your fridge frequently.

If you're a beef processor and want to stop contamination before it leaves your facility, speak to a member of our team about hygienically designing your next piece of food processing equipment.