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February 2021
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No Matter How You Slice It…

Ground Beef More Likely to Contain Salmonella than Whole Cuts

Ground beef is more likely to be infected with food-borne illnesses than whole cuts of beef, research indicates.

Ground beef is more likely to be infected with food-borne illnesses than whole cuts of beef, research indicates.

While the food on our dinner plates tonight may all have the same destination – our stomachs – how it was packaged before hitting our plates may affect whether or not it arrives to that destination without incident.

As most of you know, I’m not a big meat eater, but I do on occasion eat whole beef products, mainly bison meat and the occasional cut of sirloin or flank steak.  I seldom eat ground beef.

And for good reason, as it turns out.

I say this because according to a recent study released by researchers from Michigan State University, ground beef is more likely to be infected with food-borne illnesses than whole cuts of beef.

They discovered this after intentionally infecting slabs of beef with the same strand of salmonella.  Before doing that, though, the Michigan State researchers took off their collegiate caps and played the role of “butcher,” cutting the beef in one of several ways:  whole muscle, coarsely ground, finely ground, or beef puree.

They then took each cut of beef and lathered them up with a smorgasbord of salmonella toxin, enclosing each piece in tightly sealed containers for 30 second intervals at 140 degrees Fahrenheit (60 degrees Celsius).

As aforementioned, the whole cuts of beef fared best in resisting salmonella poison, but interestingly, there was no statistically significant degree of difference in the ground cuts of beef resistance to salmonella poisoning.  They all fared poorly.

The researchers really aren’t sure why there’s such a difference between ground beef and whole cuts (in fact they say that the aim of the study was not to explain the difference, only to test to see if there was a difference).  They speculate that it might have something to do with ground beef’s predilection to absorb water more readily than whole cuts.

The study is published in the Journal of Food Science.

Salmonella is one of the more common food-borne diseases.  Approximately 400 people die a year from it (about one percent of the number infected every year), a majority of whom are infected in the summer months.  Symptoms of salmonella poisoning are mainly gastrointestinal, like stomach cramping, bloating, and diarrhea, typically lasting for no more than seven days.

Now, am I calling for a moratorium on ground beef consumption as a result of this study?  No.  That said, the results do jibe with what we typically see when beef products are recalled:  more often than not, it tends to be ground beef than whole cuts.

Just something to keep in mind when next you feel the urge to splurge for a slab of steak, instead of a much safer – and a whole lot healthier – bit of bison.


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  2. Latest Study ‘Red Meat’ for Vegetarian Stance?
  3. Disease at Dunkin’s?
  4. Does What’s for Dinner Matter?

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