Consumer Alert: Want fries with that E. coli? Consumer Reports finds bacteria in random samples of ground meat

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — Did you enjoy beef on the grill over the holiday weekend? A new investigation done by Consumer Reports might make you think twice about what you cook at your next backyard barbeque.

Consumer Reports investigators tested 351 samples of ground meat from all over the country. And the findings were alarming. Almost a third of the ground chicken samples were contaminated with salmonella. They also found bacteria in some samples of ground beef, pork and turkey. And every strain of salmonella found was resistant to at least one antibiotic.

But a strain of E. coli they found in some ground beef samples was so concerning Consumer Reports notified the U.S. Department of Agriculture. And that triggered a recall of 28,000 pounds of beef sold all across the west. The type of bacteria was E. coli O157:H7. It releases a toxin that at best causes miserably painful bloody diarrhea. At worst it causes kidney failure that can be fatal. You may remember in the 90s when undercooked burgers at Jack in the Box made 600 people really sick and killed four kids? It was that strain of E. coli.

Here’s why ground beef is potentially so dangerous. Let’s say the meat of just one of a dozen cows is contaminated with dangerous bacteria. During processing, meat from several animals are ground together, potentially mixing the bacteria throughout many pounds of ground beef. And so that one cow could contaminate multiple batches that are packaged and sold to you and me.

What this investigation revealed is that assuring the food we eat is safe is largely up to us as consumers. You may have heard the saying, “165 stay alive.” When you heat ground meat and poultry to a temperature of 165 degrees, you’ll kill any bacteria that could be lurking in that raw meat. So I did some research for you. I consulted the folks at Wirecutter. That’s the consumer division of the New York Times. It lists two thermometers as their top picks: ThermoWorksThermoPop and ThermoWorksDot.

Wirecutter also recommends several others that work well. Click here to read more.