Consumer Reports claims that all ground beef samples tested in a recent study came back positive for fecal contamination. Researchers with the group tested 300 ground beef samples from the United States and found that all samples were contaminated with fecal matter and that the levels of bacteria in the meat were high enough to cause illness.
The Daily Mail reports that all 300 ground beef samples contained traces of fecal matter and enough bacteria to cause illness when consumed. The researchers working on the study noted that the levels of fecal contamination were high enough that they could lead to E. coli and blood or urinary infections in those consuming the product.
Consumer Reports is using the report to highlight the importance of thoroughly cooking ground beef. The report notes that eating hamburgers or other ground beef products rare could pose a real health risk as the bacteria would not be thoroughly destroyed. They also note that ground beef is especially troubling from a health standpoint as the bacteria is easily spread between multiple batches.
"Ground beef also poses particular problems because it bacteria can be easily spread throughout several batches during production."
According to CBS News, Consumer Reports is informing consumers that they should heat all beef products to an internal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit to ensure safety. However, it wasn't just fecal matter contamination that was a concern. Other potentially harmful bacteria were also present in the 300 ground beef package (458 pounds in total) samples.
"The results showed that all 458 pounds of ground beef contained fecal contamination, which can cause blood and urinary tract infections. A bacteria called C. perfringens, which causes almost 1 million cases of food poisoning annually, was found in almost 20 percent of the samples. When it came to staphylococcus aureus, we actually saw 55 percent on the conventional samples, and only about 27 percent on the sustainable samples. About 10 percent of the staphylococcus we found did have the toxin gene associated with foodborne illness."
Researchers on the project note that bacteria is expected in raw beef products but the high levels of contamination are still worrisome.
"Any raw meat product you're going to pick up, no matter what, you should expect that it's going to have some bacteria. The question here is, 'Can we make it safer? Can it be better?' We know that it causes a lot of illnesses every year, not just from eating but cross-contamination. And when we're creating these resistance pools in the environment on the farm, these things are living and spreading and growing."
To ensure safe consumption of ground beef, Consumer Reports suggests thoroughly cooking all ground beef products to an internal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit and cleaning surfaces that raw ground beef touches.
[Image Credit: Getty Images/ Justin Sullivan]