Here’s some crappy news: There’s poop in your beef.
All 458 pounds of store-bought beef that Consumer Reports tested had some level of fecal contamination, the watchdog group announced last week.
Twenty percent tested positive for C. perfringens, a bacteria that sickens 1 million people each year, and 10% contained a strain of S. aureus that produces sickening toxins and doesn’t go away when cooked.
One percent of beef tested positive for salmonella, which may not seem like a lot, but is considering that Americans bought 4.6 billion pounds of beef last year.
Cows that were not treated with antibiotics or those raised on organic farms had beef with less bacteria than conventionally raised cattle, the group found. Eighteen percent of conventional beef had antibiotic-resistant bacteria in it, as opposed to 9% from the so-called sustainably raised cattle.
“We know that sustainable methods are better for the environment and more humane to animals. But our tests also show that these methods can produce ground beef that poses fewer public health risks,” says Urvashi Rangan, Ph.D., executive director of the Center for Food Safety and Sustainability at Consumer Reports.
The meat industry, naturally, had some beef with the results.
“The beef industry in the U.S. is safe,” Mindy Brashears, a professor of food microbiology and food safety at Texas Tech, said on the “Today” show. “Whether it is a conventionally raised product, an organic or natural product — the consumer can have confidence that they have taken action to make the product safer over the past 10 years.”
Food poisoning cases are under reported, Consumer Reports says: For every reported case of E. coli, another 26 are estimated to occur. And for every case of salmonella reported, an estimated 29 extra people get sick.
You can minimize your risk by purchasing beef labeled “grass-fed organic.” Consumer Reports also recommends cooking beef to 160 degrees to kill harmful bacteria, or 165 degrees if you’re reheating leftovers, since bacteria can grow as food sits out for extended periods.