What to Know About Buying Beef After Massive Recall
If you’ve bought any beef at the grocery store lately, you should know there’s been another massive recall due to salmonella contamination.
On Tuesday, beef processor JBS Tolleson Inc. announced it was voluntarily recalling more than 5.1 million pounds of raw beef products that could be contaminated with the bacteria, according to a release from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service.
The beef items include ground beef and were packaged between July 26 and September 7, 2018. The department also released a list of the contaminated products that have already been distributed nationwide.
This is an expansion of the beef recall announced in October, bringing the total amount of non-intact raw beef products recalled to more than 12 million pounds.
So far, 246 people have gotten sick from eating the infected meat in 25 states, and 56 have been hospitalized.
“It is very concerning. It involves a food that’s widely used and enjoyed,” Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease specialist at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, told Healthline.
“Salmonella infection can be unpleasant and, on occasion, if you are vulnerable in some way or older or immune-compromised or have any substantial underlying illness, it can be serious.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that people infected with salmonella can develop diarrhea, fever, and stomach cramps that can last from anywhere between 12 and 72 hours after exposure.
Overall, your illness from salmonella exposure can last four to seven days, but usually it’s mild enough that most people recover without going on any treatment.
It can be dangerous if salmonella spreads from your intestines and enters the bloodstream and then disperses to other parts of the body.
The CDC cautions that people with weakened immune systems, children younger than 5, and adults older than 65 are more likely to have more severe complications than the general public.
Schaffner said he was dismayed to see that a lot of the coverage surrounding the outbreak seemed to gloss over ways to avoid getting sick from contaminated beef.
“If you’re going to eat meat, generally, then you have to cook it thoroughly. One of the messages I always have when it comes to ground beef has always been to eat your hamburger, for instance, ‘well done,’” he said.
“That’s because the salmonella is mixed in with the entire hamburger. With a chopped meat product you have to get rid of the bacteria that could potentially be sitting at the center. Make sure the entire surface is appropriately cooked.”
The CDC recommends that you cook ground beef hamburgers and food items like meatloaf to 160°F internal temperature. You can use a food thermometer to make sure the meat has reached a safe temperature.
Schaffner said if you’re at a restaurant, you might want to avoid ordering a burger “rare.”
“To be safe, I’m an infectious disease guy, for years, I’ve always made sure my hamburger is ‘well done,’ which causes a lot of frowns around the dinner table. I give a lot of mini lectures at dinner, it’s not always well received,” he added.
At home, if you are preparing foods with raw ground beef, make sure you wash your hands and any items that might have come in contact with the meat.
This current recall comes on the heels of a recent salmonella outbreak in turkeys that led to a recall of 147,276 pounds of raw ground turkey products.
Are we seeing a trend of increasingly more prevalent salmonella outbreaks in the poultry and meat we consume?
“I haven’t looked at it quantitatively, it may be up, but the fact that you hear about it more is due to the fact that our means of detection of contamination have improved scientifically — we’re looking at it (bacterial outbreaks in food) more thoroughly in the laboratory,” Schaffner explained.
“Then, on top of that, the modes of communication available to us today means that the word gets out to the public more comprehensively and vividly than in the past. We are catching salmonella outbreaks more and also publicizing them in a more effective fashion.”
The USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service recalled more than 5.1 million pounds of raw beef products from stores. This adds to the previously announced beef recall for salmonella in October, bringing the total to more than 12 million pounds of recalled beef.
The beef was packaged between July 26 and September 7, and 246 people have gotten sick in 25 states leading to 56 hospitalizations.
Doctors stress that you cook beef products at high enough temperatures to kill any bacteria. If you get a hamburger, for instance, cook it “well done.” The CDC recommends that ground beef hamburgers are cooked to an internal temperature of 160°F.