Me and Misti Crane, of The Columbus Dispatch, had a chat about all things food safety yesterday, as 18 people in Ohio and another 20 in Michigan have been stricken with the same strain of E. coli O157:H7, linked to hamburger from Nebraska Beef.
As Bill Marler pointed out last night, Nebraska Beef tried to downplay the seriousness of its recall of over 265 tons of ground beef and components when it said in a press release,
"The Company has processed over 10 billion pounds of product without a confirmed customer illness."
Not sure what confirmed means, but …
What I tried to explain with Misti was that it’s not nearly enough to expect people to just handle things safety because food safety is so simple; that pathogen loads – the sheer numbers of dangerous microorganisms on product like hamburger – need to be reduced from farm-to-fork.
If you’ve ever tried making hamburgers from scratch, you’ll know why.
The opportunities for cross-contamination — a few of those E. coli O157:H7 moving from hamburger to hands or counters or utensils, and then somewhere else –are just overwhelming.
And if the burger does make it to the grill, it has to be cooked. As I said,
"I feel naked without a thermometer," and that brown meat is not necessarily cooked meat. "Color is just a terrible indicator. Over half of hamburger will turn brown before it’s actually done.”
That’s why a risk reduction approach, beginning on the farm and right through to the fork, is essential. Especially with E. coli O157:H7.