Another day, another food recall. The latest? Nebraska-based meatpacker Tyson Fresh Meats is recalling more than 40,000 pounds of ground beef -- shipped to 16 states (Alabama, California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee, West Virginia, and Wisconsin) -- after it tested positive for E. coli.
Thankfully, no illnesses have been recorded in this latest case of E. coli, a bacterium that can be dangerous, or even deadly. But it serves as a reminder that we all need to be particularly careful when cooking meat. Here are a few things we all need to remember in order to stay safe and healthy:
1. Buy fresh meat: Check the expiration date. If the "sell-by" or "use-by" date is past -- or if the meat looks off to you -- pass it by. Also steer clear of it if the packaging is torn or leaking.
2. Transport it safely: Separate meat from other items, especially fruits and veggies. If you have a long drive home or are taking meat to a destination more than an hour away, put it in a cooler to keep it fresh.
3. Refrigerate it promptly: Make sure you refrigerate or freeze meat within two hours of purchasing -- or within one hour on a hot summer day. Your refrigerator should be set to 40 degrees or below and your freezer to 0 degrees or below.
4. Don't leave it in the fridge too long: Fresh poultry, fish, and ground beef should be used or frozen within two days of purchase. Other kinds of beef, veal, lamb, and pork can last a little bit longer, but should generally be cooked or frozen within three to five days after you buy it.
5. Wrap it up: To keep the juices from the meat from potentially contaminating other foods, make sure to wrap the meat -- in foil or plastic wrap, over its original packaging -- when refrigerating or freezing. This can also help maintain quality.
6. Thaw carefully: You can thaw frozen meat in the fridge by submerging in cold water or in a microwave, but make sure you don't allow the juices to drip on other food as you thaw. And cook meat immediately after thawing.
7. Keep it clean: Wash your hands with warm, soapy water for at least 20 seconds before and after you handle meat. Prevent cross-contamination by keeping meat juices away from other foods and carefully washing knives, cutting boards, and countertops with hot, soapy water after using them to prep meat. Sanitize countertops and cutting boards with a mix of bleach and water (1 tablespoon bleach per gallon of water).
8. Cook thoroughly: Ground meats should be cooked to a temperature of at least 160 degrees. Other cuts of beef, pork, lamb, and veal should be cooked to an internal temperature of 145 degrees. And poultry should reach 165 degrees. (You might want to get yourself a meat thermometer, if you don't already have one!)
9. Serve food promptly: Don't leave cooked meat out more than two hours at room temperature.
10. Refrigerate leftovers: Chuck leftovers that have been left out for longer than two hours. Refrigerate the rest promptly and eat within three to four days. Make sure microwaved leftovers are evenly and thoroughly cooked before eating them. You can freeze cooked meat dishes, too, but not forever. A helpful chart letting you know how long is too long can be found here. But if that hamburger has a gray beard, it's probably time for it to go!
Will you be more careful cooking with meat in light of the ground beef recall?
Image via aMichiganMom/Flickr