Just days after the Food and Agriculture Organization’s report how one-third of all food produced for human consumption is wasted every year, the XL Foods scandal began.
Now we’re hearing that at least two million pounds of beef, the equivalent of about 6,000 to 7,000 cattle, is heading to Alberta landfills. It’s the largest E. coli-related meat recall in history. It’s also the biggest “when in doubt, throw it out” debacle we’ve ever seen.
Even as inspectors and company managers scramble to make the system safer, a lot of consumers are pretty lax insofar as what we could do to avoid this waste.
Here’s some of our most common cooking errors which, as pointed out by the Canadian Partnership for Consumer Food Safety Education, is what we’re doing to increase a food safety risk.
• Only about half of cooks wash their hands before or after handling food.
• Many take meat out of the fridge and bring it to room temperature — a habit apparently picked up from watching television cooking shows.
• Only about 15 per cent of people use a food thermometer to test for doneness. Many simply eye the meat’s colour to decide if it is cooked.
• Cooks use the same equipment for raw meat as for cooked, such as putting cooked meat on the same plate that held the raw.
XL’s problems began when, despite its own monitoring and that of dozens of Canadian Food Inspection Agency inspectors, a large number of cattle reportedly entered the plant carrying E. coli. The problem continues at the other end when the rest of us neither seem to know nor practise even the basics of safe food handling.
This meat recall, and the appalling waste resulting from it, is a wake up-call. We all have a role to play in ensuring food is safe to eat.
That means consistently following certain safe food-handling practices.
• Washing hands before and during cooking, with soap and water and using the 20-second rule (hum two choruses of Happy Birthday.)
• Keeping foods chilled in the fridge at 4 C until ready to cook — and that includes marinating too.
• Using a digital food thermometer to test for doneness. (See the chart below for proper temperatures.)
• Wash the barbecue tongs after flipping steaks, burgers, chicken, kabobs during cooking, and before you use them to take food off the grill to serve. Or better yet, have two pairs of tongs — one for raw and one for cooked. The same goes for cutting boards.
For more information and tips on how to keep your home food safe, visit www.befoodsafe.ca and www.canfightbac.org.
Safe cooking temperatures as measured with a food thermometer
Simple Skillet Ground Beef Stroganoff
A big batch ground beef recipe like this one lets you pull other meals together in just minutes — great for those busy nights when you need supper fast. If you want to skip making the big batch beef, substitute one lb. fresh ground beef, browned with one EACH large onion and clove garlic, minced.
- 2 c. curly broad egg noodles2 c. sliced mushrooms1 small sweet red pepper, thinly sliced2-1/2 c. frozen Big Batch Ground Beef*1 can (10 oz./284 ml) condensed fat-reduced cream of mushroom soup3/4 c. light sour cream1 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce or Dijon mustardChopped fresh parsley and paprika
Cook noodles according to package directions; drain and set aside. Meanwhile, stir-fry mushrooms and sweet pepper with a splash of vegetable oil in a deep non-stick skillet over medium-high heat, until softened and any liquid from the mushrooms has evaporated, (about 10 minutes). Stir in Big Batch Beef, soup, sour cream and Worcestershire sauce; simmer over medium heat 10 minutes. Serve over hot egg noodles; garnish with minced fresh parsley and paprika.
*Big Batch Ground Beef: Cook four lbs. extra-lean ground beef in Dutch oven over medium-high heat for 10 minutes, breaking into small chunks with back of spoon, until browned. Drain and return to pot. Add four EACH onion and cloves of garlic, minced, simmer for 15 minutes until vegetables are softened. Spread in a single layer on several foil or parchment paper-lined baking trays; freeze until meat is firm, about 1 hour. Loosen into chunks, scoop meal-sized portions into freezer bags. Freeze for up to three months.
Difficulty: Easy. Preparation: 5 minutes. Cooking: 20 minutes. Makes: 6 servings.Best suited for: Lots of kids.
Source: Canadabeef Inc www.canadabeef.ca
This transition into winter can often be the busiest time of year for families as all our commitments to volunteering and extracurricular activities gear up. Here are two delicious recipes to pull together hearty, nightly meals in no time.
Slow-Cooker Southwestern Pulled Beef
Don’t let the “eight hours cooking” deter you from trying this delicious recipe. The leftovers become several next-day dinner options listed below, or it can be frozen for other future fast meals too.
- 2 tbsp. vegetable oil4 lb. beef cross rib or boneless blade pot roast1 c. beef broth28-oz. (796-ml) can, EACH crushed tomatoes and whole tomatoes1 pouch onion soup mix2 tbsp. EACH tomato paste, chili powder and ground cumin1/4 tsp. EACH black and cayenne pepper2 tbsp. all-purpose flour
Heat oil in Dutch oven or heavy deep skillet over medium-high heat; brown beef all over, turning with tongs. Transfer to slow cooker. Drain fat. Reduce heat to medium. Add broth, tomatoes, onion soup mix, tomato paste, chili powder, cumin, black pepper and cayenne to Dutch oven. Bring to boil over medium-high heat, stirring up any brown bits. Pour over beef. Cover and cook on low setting for eight to 10 hours until beef is fork tender. Skim fat from liquid. Leave meat in sauce, remove twine. Whisk flour into 1/4 cup cold water; whisk into sauce in slow cooker. Cover and cook on high, stirring once, until thickened, about 15 minutes. Use two forks to pull the beef into shreds.
Hot Beef Sandwiches: Heat some pulled beef in microwave or saucepan. Spoon over split sub buns and top with ready-made coleslaw or pan-fried onions and sliced pickled jalapeno peppers. Serve with green salad or raw veggies and dip.
Quick Quesadillas: Spoon 1/2 cup pulled beef on half of one large flour tortilla; top beef with some shredded cheddar cheese and sliced pickled jalapeno peppers. Fold tortilla over filling; repeat with three more tortillas. Bake on parchment paper-lined baking sheet in 400 F (200 C) oven, turning once, until golden, about eight minutes per side. Makes four servings.
Taco Time: Heat some pulled beef in microwave or saucepan; spoon into warmed taco shells or flour tortillas with your favourite taco fixings.
Mexican Shepherd’s Pie: In 9 x 13-inch baking dish, combine four cups pulled beef, one can (19 oz./540 ml) EACH chili-style stewed tomatoes and kidney beans (drained and rinsed) and two cups frozen corn. Top with four cups mashed potatoes (homemade or 1 pkg/907 g ready-made). Bake in 350 F (180 C) oven until heated through, about 30 minutes.
Difficulty: Easy. Preparation: 10 minutes. Cooking: 8 hours. Makes: 13 cup servings.Best suited for: Potluck/buffet, cook once eat twice.