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Consumers Have A Role In Beef Safety

The safety of our beef supply starts in the pasture and ends at the dinner table. That means that consumers have a role to play, as do producers, packers, retailers and food service vendors.

The vast majority of food-borne illness occurs at the consumer level due to inadequate handling, cross-contamination of raw meat products and insuffi cient cooking methods.

Problems may start on the trip home from the grocery store. During transportation of 20 minutes or more in a standard grocery bag, temperatures of cold food products such as raw meat can begin to rise. Once a meat product leaves the store, it should be at room temperature or in the car for as little time as possible. Placing beef in a cooler or in the coolest part of the car will help maintain a safe temperature.

As a general rule, meat should be refrigerated at 4 C or less, and frozen at -17 C or less. Use a thermometer – just because food items feel cool doesn’t mean the proper refrigeration temperature is being maintained.

Cross-contamination is another safety concern, and the standard grocery bag is the place where it can start. Juices from raw meat products can drip onto other food products. This can be prevented by individually wrapping meat products and keeping them separate during transport. Cross-contamination can also occur in the refrigerator (when meat juices drip onto other food products) and in kitchens through knives and cutting boards.

Cooking hamburger, steaks and roasts to a temperature of 71 C will kill harmful pathogens. Use a meat thermometer – don’t guess or go by how the meat looks.

– Lori Weddle-Schott is a beef educator with University of

Minnesota Extension.

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