Use a digital meat thermometer

Consumer Reports gets it only partially right when it says, “for perfect roasts, use a digital meat thermometer.”

barfblog.Stick It InInstead of perpetuating the fairytale that thermometers are only used for roasts, the self-proclaimed bishops of all things consumer should be preaching thermometer use in all kinds of foods.

Consumer Reports tested 46 meat thermometers and found 10 impressive enough to make our top picks list. Spoiler alert: They’re all digital.
 Most of the meat thermometers we tested were accurate within 2 to 4 °F of the reference thermometer and none was more than 5 °F off. Digital models generally performed better and were more accurate, consistent, and convenient to use than analog models. Analog thermometers were often more difficult to read, had the longest response times, and have few if any features. So go digital. 

Want to avoid an E. coli burger? Cook the outside and inside to 71°C (160°F) – regardless of color

It’s a beautiful thing, for a Brit publication to embrace temperature, even when their own overpaid food safety types won’t.

terrance.phillip.fartExcept the person giving the advice is Canadian.

Dietitian Cara Rosenbloom, writer of the Words To Eat By blog, said minced beef is one of the main carriers of E. coli, a harmful bacteria among the most common causes of food poisoning.

But, she said, spotting a burger riddled with the bacteria is difficult as the meat will smell and look normal.

‘While the surface of any meat can technically harbor E. coli, it is killed when you cook food at a high temperature.

‘If E. coli is on the surface of a steak, it is killed by the grill, even if the inside of the meat stays pink.

Needle tenderized?

‘It’s got wagyu and pork, so we cook it to medium’; burger illiteracy, Brisbane-style

Amy had some French academics visiting this week, so we went out a couple of times, and I cooked a bunch of seafood and steak.

hamburger.jul.14At the restaurant yesterday, I got a burger for lunch. The server didn’t ask how I wanted it done, so I asked, how would it be cooked.

“It’s got wagyu and pork, so we cook it to medium.”

More bullshit.

I said I wanted it 160F and he was baffled.

Food safety at its finest.

22 sickened: E coli outbreak at Scotland’s Hydro ’caused by under-cooked burgers’ at venue

We wish to assure the public that at this time we have no significant concerns in relation to catering for our patrons.”

That was the statement from SSE Hydro arena in Glasgow as the number stricken by E. coli O157 climbed in Feb. 2014.

big-grillEventually at least 22 people were stricken, and a new report concludes it was due to under-cooking of beef burgers at the venue.

Of the 22 confirmed cases, a total of 19 of those cases attended had eaten beef burgers at the SSE Hydro’s food stall, Big Grill, between Friday 17 and Sunday 19 January 2014.

The remaining three individuals were infected after having household contact with the initial cases.

An investigation by NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde (NHSGGC) alongside other public health bodies found evidence “strongly suggesting processing errors leading to under-cooking as well as the potential for cross contamination” at The Hydro.

The report concluded: “Descriptive evidence gathered by environmental health officers strongly suggests processing errors leading to under-cooking as well as the potential for cross contamination in the preparation and serving of the beef burger products.

“These processing errors would provide plausible mechanisms for exposure to VTEC (a strain of E coli).”

Health inspectors then visited the popular music venue after reports of the infection to examine how food was prepared by staff.

They found that preparation of food at “The Big Grill” at the venue involved a lack of consistency in the searing and cooking process of burgers.

Inspectors observed inadequacy of temperature monitoring records and weaknesses in temperature monitoring of food to test how cooked items were by staff.

It was also discovered there was “an inappropriate cleaning and disinfection regime, and an absence of documented evidence of a hazard analysis” at the venue.

All of the 19 confirmed primary cases had eaten a six ounce burger served on a bread bun from the Big Grill stall.”

Go beyond piping hot? new UK food poisoning figures published

New research published by the Food Standards Agency gives the most detailed picture yet of how many people suffer from food poisoning in the UK every year and how much food poisoning can be attributed to different foods.

Ministry-Silly-WalksThe findings are important as official data for food poisoning cases significantly under-estimates how big the problem is, as only the most serious cases get reported. Most people do not seek treatment from their GP, and not all GPs carry out tests for specific pathogens, so these unreported cases are not captured in routine surveillance data.

The data from this study, coupled with data from official statistics, refines our previous estimates of the real burden of foodborne disease and so will help focus efforts to reduce levels of food poisoning in the UK.

The study found that:

There are more than 500,000 cases of food poisoning a year from known pathogens. This figure would more than double if it included food poisoning cases from unknown pathogens.

Campylobacter was the most common foodborne pathogen, with about 280,000 cases every year.

The next most common pathogen was Clostridium perfringens with 80,000 cases, and norovirus was third with an estimated 74,000 cases.

Salmonella is the pathogen that causes the most hospital admissions – about 2,500 each year.

Poultry meat was the food linked to the most cases of food poisoning, with an estimated 244,000 cases every year.

After poultry, produce including vegetables, fruit, nuts and seeds, caused the second highest number of cases of illness (an estimated 48,000 cases), while beef and lamb were third (an estimated 43,000 cases).

The researchers were able to identify about half a million cases of food poisoning every year attributable to 13 specific pathogens. However, 10 million cases of infectious intestinal disease (IID) a year are not yet attributed to a specific pathogen. If these cases had similar rates attributable to food then this would bring the overall figure to in excess of a million cases a year.

Professor Sarah O’Brien, the study’s lead researcher from the University of Liverpool, said: ‘These findings will help the FSA to target its resources more effectively in tackling food poisoning. They confirm that the FSA is right to put campylobacter at the top of its priority list. It is the biggest food safety problem we have and more needs to be done to tackle it.’

Steve Wearne, Director of Policy at the FSA, said: ‘This study is a very important part of the research we fund to increase our knowledge of food safety and the risks that all of us are exposed to. Reduction of campylobacter is our top food safety priority, and that is borne out by this research. We recently revised our campylobacter strategy and we, in collaboration with industry, must now push on to find the solutions that will stop so many people getting ill.’

The research is an extension of the IID2 study, published in September 2011, which estimated the numbers of cases of IID in the UK. The IID2 extension was commissioned by the FSA to use the data generated from the IID2 study, and other sources, to estimate the burden of foodborne disease in the UK.

Serve burgers, not hockey pucks; food safety and thermometers

I may have first said that about 15 years ago.

Rob Mancini writes that food safety types have always advocated for the use of thermometers to determine if a food product has reached the required temperature to inactivate pathogens.

 mancini.jun.14This leads to less barfing.

Different types of foods require different temperatures to kill pathogens; don’t memorize the numbers, just know where to reference them. Be careful with poultry because Canada requires a higher temperature than the States, 85°C (185°F) and 74°C (165°F) respectively. Consistency is hard to attain….

Canada Beef and the Canadian Partnership for Consumer Food Safety Education have launched a campaign to save Canadians from eating hockey pucks this summer.

“All too often the humble hamburger is cooked beyond tasty recognition,” says Joyce Parslow, a professional home economist with Canada Beef. “A food thermometer is a quick and very effective way of knowing just when your burger is done. There is no more guessing, which means hockey pucks can stay on the ice and burgers can be enjoyed all summer long.”

The two groups are encouraging Canadians to share a photo of themselves

This is my beautiful wife cooking a roasted chicken and using a digital tip sensitive thermometer to ensure the final internal temperature has reached 74°C (165°F).

Temperature guidelines for all foods can be found at befoodsafe.ca.

From the duh files: parents serve up their kids’ food hygiene habits

UK’s Food Standards Agency sure spends a lot of money on stuff the rest of us might go, duh?

roast.chicken.june.10Parents have a big influence on their children’s food hygiene habits, according to a survey by the Food Standards Agency. The results show a link between how people currently prepare their food and the behaviors they experienced when they were kids. More than two thirds of UK adults (70%) said their parents insisted on washing hands before meals, with 62% now doing the same themselves.

Just over half (53%) recalled their parents washing chopping boards in between preparing raw and cooked foods – a behaviour that two thirds (66%) had recently repeated.

However, the survey showed that parents don’t always know best when it comes to food safety. Almost half (47%) of adults saw their parents washing raw chicken before cooking it when they were kids, with 46% revealing that they have done the same in recent months. It is this bad food hygiene habit that is the subject of this year’s Food Safety Week, which focuses on the message ‘don’t wash raw chicken’. Washing raw chicken can lead to a potentially dangerous form of food poisoning and almost a third (32%) of people said the reason they wash raw chicken is that their parents or another relative did so when they were growing up.

Bob Martin, food safety expert at the FSA, said: ‘Our survey suggests that mum doesn’t always know best when it comes to food safety.”

Bob, mom always doesn’t do the cooking, but stick to your sexist, taxpayer-funded message if you like.

You may want to add the use of thermometers instead of piping hot, regardless of gender.

Stick it in: Australian MasterChef favorite Sarah Todd eliminated in raw chicken boob

I’m so excited by Masterchef Australia I apparently fell asleep on the couch while it was on.

But Amy watched it in bed, and there was a heated discussion about thermometer use.

barfblog.Stick It InNice to see the cooking shows catch up with 15-year-old widely disseminated science.

And better than piping hot.

Sarah Todd, the 27-year-old, from Queensland, was one of the favorites to win this year’s series of the Channel 10 cooking show.

Sarah, a Chadwick model who made headlines when a topless photo shoot of her emerged, stumbled in a cook-off against Colin Sheppard and Tracy Collins.

Even ‘good luck’ batteries ‘for extra energy’ from her three-year-old son Phoenix couldn’t stop Sarah from plating up raw chicken roulade stuffed with apples and mushrooms.

MasterChef Australia judges Matt Preston, George Calombaris and Gary Mehigan refused to taste the dish — and sent Sarah packing.

Ellen Thomas: Thermometers only way to know a burger is safe

Ellen Thomas, a PhD student in food science at North Carolina State University who enjoys running, baking, and playing the violin, writes:

I’ve ordered a crazy number of burgers over the past year. This isn’t because I constantly crave red meat, I’m just interested in what restaurant servers say about eating undercooked burgers.

An E. coli O157:H7 outbreak, which sickened 11 people in 4 different states, has been linked to undercooked burgers at restaurants. Over 1.8 million pounds of ground beef have been recalled.

hamburger.thermometerThe FDA Food Code, adopted in some form by most states, says that it is the duty of the restaurant to disclose risk information around consuming undercooked hamburgers and remind people when they order. Sometimes this is included on the menu, sometimes the servers engage patrons. However, there is no data about whether this actually occurs.

To capture this data, I’ve trained a legion of secret shoppers to order burgers cooked medium rare, and record the risk information provided on menus and by servers.

It’s been an enlightening process.

A lot of servers talk about color, some talk about temperature, others talk about the firmness of the burger.

There have been numerous situations where a server simply says, “the cook just knows what they’re doing.” A lot of servers assure the secret shoppers that eating a medium rare burger is perfectly safe.

And some responses have been shocking like the server who volunteered, “You’ll be fine eating it medium rare- my sister ate a burger that was raw in the middle when she was pregnant and she was just fine.”

rare.hamburgerUnfortunately, misinformation about cooking burgers is widespread. When interviewed by 22News following the E. coli O157:H7 outbreak, Joe Igner, owner of Local Burger in Northampton, Massachusetts, said that he “never had a problem with E. coli” because “it’s recommended to cook ground beef at least 4 minutes and up to 7 minutes on each side.” Nowhere did Igner mention thermometer use. He also stated, “We don’t get it from a processing plant and that’s a big difference because when they process, they process beef and turkey and if they don’t change the blades, that’s when somebody’s going to get sick.”

This is simply not true. Contamination can occur at any point when processing, handling, and preparing raw ground beef, including in a restaurant kitchen, even if it is ground in house.

Sydney Lupkin of ABC writes, So how do you know if your hamburger’s safe? It’s not as simple as you think.

“With ground beef, color is not a reliable indicator of doneness,” said Marianne Graveley, a specialist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s meat and poultry hotline.

Meat that’s still pink may be well-done, Graveley said, and meat that’s brown may need more heat.

“We used to have different campaign: It’s done when it’s brown in middle,” she said. “Now we say to use a meat thermometer. It’s the only way to know that it’s safe.”

USDA recommends that hamburgers be cooked to at least 160 degrees internally. But it’s no secret that few of us take the temperature of our patties, and many of us prefer them rare.

“We would never recommend that,” Graveley said. “The risk of food poisoning is too great. People have gotten very sick from very small amount of food. We just don’t think it’s worth the risk.”

hamburger-safe and unsafe-thumb-450x138-175The server response that sticks with me the most is, “I’m just a server- I don’t know what the cooks do.” This may seem like a reasonable statement; servers are usually tending to numerous tables in a very high-paced environment and only pass through the kitchen to pick up dishes.

When digging into the current outbreak, it’s curious to think whether illnesses have occurred had risks been effectively communicated to consumers. What I’m trying to figure out is how much do servers play a role in advising consumers of their food choices?

Ordering all of these burgers shows me that there are gaps between what happens in a kitchen and what a server tells restaurant patrons. As the server is typically the liaison between the kitchen and the consumer, these gaps mark crucial points where risk information could occur and it is not happening.