Meat lovers who like their burgers rare, beware.
There is an overwhelmingly large amount of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in ground beef, according to a Consumer Reports investigation.
Harmful bacteria ingested from uncooked beef can cause serious illness. This is especially a problem for people who prefer their beef on the rare side. While bacteria tends to stay on the surface of steaks and roasts, it is mixed throughout in ground beef, which is why it needs to be cooked thoroughly.
For the study, 300 packages of ground beef from 103 grocery stores, natural food stores and big-box shops from around the country were tested. The samples included beef that originated from conventional farms and those that were labeled antibiotic-free, organic or grass-fed.
After analyzing the samples for five common types of bacteria found on beef — clostridium perfringens, E. coli, enterococcus, salmonella, and staphylococcus aureus — Consumer Reports found that that all 458 pounds of beef tested had fecal contamination from enterococcus or E. coli bacteria. A fifth of the beef was infected with C. perfringens, a bacteria associated with food poisoning, 10% tested positive for S.aureus, a bacteria that can’t be eliminated by cooking, and 1% had salmonella.
Furthermore, conventionally raised beef was found to have a higher likelihood of bacteria contamination and of being infected by antibiotic-resistant superbugs, a bacteria that can’t be killed by three or more antibiotics.
While it’s hard to ensure that your burger is 100% free of bacteria, Consumer Reports advised consumers to purchase meat labeled “organic” or “grass fed.” These cows typically have healthier diets and are not treated with antibiotics, which can contribute to the growth of drug-resistant bacteria.
Jean Halloran, director of food policy initiatives at Consumer Reports, explained that labels such as “antibiotic free” or “natural” in grocery stores can be misleading to shoppers. Instead, consumers should look for products that say “no antibiotics administered” or “USDA process verified.” This means that the government has gone out and verified that the processor is doing their job right.
The North American Meat Institute responded to the report with a statement that said the type of bacteria found in the beef doesn’t typically cause illness, and the low levels of E. coli and salmonella are actually a positive result.