There are multiple safety hurdles in the beef production chain before product arrives at grocery stores, restaurants and dinner tables. A series of time-tested and thoroughly researched safeguards individually and collectively provide consumers with the safest food system in the world. Thanks to this stringent system, the incidence of foodborne illness in this country decreased dramatically between 1996 and 2004 and has remained at a similarly low level since.
- All beef is subject to strict government oversight. In fact, the Federal Meat Inspection Act of 1906 and the many regulations, notices and directives that followed make the meat and poultry industries among the most regulated. Every meat processing facility undergoes a thorough government inspection, which includes review of their Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) system – the foundation for safety intervention methods and process controls.
- Who is checking?
- The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is present at all federally inspected slaughter facilities, with Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) personnel stationed at various points throughout the slaughter and processing operation.
- Healthy animals = safe meat
- Public Health Veterinarians must examine and inspect all livestock before they are allowed to enter any slaughter or packing facility, and FSIS inspectors are responsible for conducting a thorough examination of every carcass. The inspection system continues throughout the entire processing segment of the industry, including careful examination of both raw and fully cooked products.
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The U.S. beef industry continues to work with the government and other food chain partners to further strengthen our food safety systems in order to provide the safest beef in the world. This commitment is evident in the industry’s dedication to researching potential safety challenges and safety interventions. In addition, beef producers founded the Beef Industry Food Safety Council (BIFSCo), which brings together all segments of the beef production chain to address a common goal – the elimination of foodborne illness.
The best way to combat foodborne pathogens, like E. coli O157:H7, is with validated interventions. The industry continues to research new interventions and improve existing technologies as part of a comprehensive safety system from production to consumer.
Foodservice operators should contribute to these combined safety efforts by engaging in BIFSCo (both online at www.BIFSCo.org and by attending the annual Safety Summit each spring), reviewing on-site best practices for safety and being prepared to answer consumer questions about beef safety.
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Follow established best practices for storage, sanitation, grinding and food handling, and make sure employees are well-trained in food safety. For more information on best practices, visit the Beef Industry Food Safety Council at www.BIFSCo.org.
- Take a moment and think about all of the surfaces, utensils, people and food that you touch when preparing a meal. Bacteria can inadvertently spread throughout your kitchen on unwashed hands, cutting boards, kitchen utensils, countertops and sponges. This is known as cross-contamination, and that’s why it’s important to thoroughly clean anything that has been in contact with raw meat, eggs or poultry with hot, soapy water.
- Storage & Chilling
- Use a refrigerator and freezer thermometer to ensure that your refrigerator is at or below 40°F, and your freezer is at or below 0°F.
- Space items in your refrigerator and freezer so air can freely circulate.
- Use refrigerated beef steaks, roasts and deli meats within three to five days of purchase. All fresh poultry, ground meat and fish should be used within one to two days of purchase.
- Store raw meat, poultry and fish in a container or on a dish that will prevent juices from dripping onto other foods.
- Follow the “use by” information on package labels. If you cannot remember when a food item was placed in the refrigerator, throw it out.
- If fresh meat will not be used within the allowable time, ensure the meat is well wrapped and place it in your freezer on the bottom shelf.
- Label and date your frozen foods, and follow the “first in, first out” rule.
- Separate & Prepare
- Wash your hands with hot, soapy water for at least 20 seconds before preparing food, as well as before and after handling raw meat.
- Keep raw meat, poultry and fish and their juices from coming into contact with other foods during preparation. Wash all utensils and surfaces with hot, soapy water after contact with raw meat.
- Never chop fresh vegetables or salad ingredients on a cutting board that was used for raw meat without properly cleaning it first. If possible, designate a separate cutting board for preparation of raw meat, poultry and fish.
- Thaw foods only in the refrigerator or microwave oven; never leave out at room temperature. Foods thawed in the microwave must be cooked immediately, not refrigerated.
- Marinate in the refrigerator, not on the kitchen counter. Discard or boil thoroughly any leftover marinade that was in contact with the raw meat.
- Clean produce well under cold, running water, and scrub thoroughly with a clean brush when possible.
- Use an ovenproof or instant-read meat thermometer to prevent overcooking or undercooking.
- Place the thermometer in the thickest portion of the meat, not touching bone, fat or the bottom of the pan.
- For ground beef patties, insert thermometer sideways into the center of the patty.
- Ground beef should be cooked to 160° F. Other cuts of beef, like steaks and roasts should be cooked to a minimum temperature of 145° F.
- Always place cooked food in a clean dish for serving, and use clean utensils. Never use the same plate that held raw meat, poultry or fish to serve the cooked meat.
- Do not allow any cooked food to sit out at room temperature more than two hours.
- When serving food buffet style, keep cold foods on ice at a temperature below 40°F, and keep hot foods above 140°F. Do not mix fresh food with food that has been sitting out.
- Refrigerate cooked foods no later than two hours after cooking. Do not allow foods to cool at room temperature.
- Divide large amounts of leftovers into small portions and place in shallow containers for quick chilling.
- Freeze or discard leftovers that won’t be used within a few days.
- Cover and reheat leftovers to 165°F throughout. Stir foods while you reheat them to ensure that all the food reaches the appropriate temperature.
- When in doubt, throw it out.
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