Chow Line: Improperly cooked hamburgers on the grill could make your Memorial Day memorable

We plan to grill this weekend for Memorial Day but my husband and I can’t seem to agree on how to cook the hamburgers. I like them medium rare like a steak, but my husband says the burgers should be cooked until they are well done. Which one of us is right?

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Unlike steaks, hamburgers, and any ground beef meals, should be cooked until they reach an internal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit to help lessen your chance of developing a foodborne illness, said Sanja Ilic, the state food safety specialist for Ohio State University Extension. OSU Extension is the outreach arm of The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES).

Even though beef steak and ground beef are both beef, steak can be safe to eat at a minimum internal temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit, while ground beef has to reach the higher cooking temperature, according to the U. S. Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service.

In this case, “safe” means the food is heated for a long enough time and at a high enough temperature to kill the harmful bacteria that cause foodborne illness.

So why the temperature difference between when a steak is considered safe and when ground beef is considered safe?

It’s because harmful bacteria that may be present on the surface of a whole, intact, cut of meat like steak will be killed off when you cook the steak. However, when that beef is ground into hamburger meat, the bacteria that was on the surface is now mixed throughout, necessitating the need for the meat to be cooked to an internal temperature high enough to kill bacteria on both the outside and inside of the burger.

Cube steak should also be cooked to 160 degrees, Ilic said.

“Cube steak is a cut of beef that has been mechanically tenderized by piercing the muscle fibers and connective tissues with small blades or needles to improve meat tenderness,” she said. “So when cooking hamburgers and cube steak, turning the patties twice during the cooking process will even the temperature and eliminate more bacteria than a single flip.”

Ilic also advises that consumers always use a food thermometer to make sure the meat has reached a safe internal temperature, inserting the thermometer into the thickest part of the meat.

“Do not rely on color to tell whether a burger is done,” she said. “A burger can be undercooked even if it is brown in the middle. The only way to know if the meat is safe to eat is to use a food thermometer.”

Other safety tips USDA offers regarding ground beef include:

  • Store ground beef at a temperature of 40 degrees or lower within two hours after purchase. You should use the meat or freeze it within two days of purchase.
  • Thaw meat in the refrigerator instead of on the counter or in the sink.
  • Raw foods need to be kept chilled before grilling and uneaten cooked foods need to be stored at the appropriate temperature to avoid spoiling.
  • After cooking ground beef, refrigerate it within two hours and use it within three to four days.

It’s also important to note that the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service issued a recall this week for more than 62,000 pounds of raw beef due to E. coli concerns. The recalled products were packaged on April 19 and have the establishment number “EST. 788” inside the USDA mark of inspection.

The recallincludes more than 40 beef products including ribeyes, ribs, and brisket cuts.

Additionally, as of May 13, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were investigating a multistate outbreakof Shiga toxin-producing E. coli O103 infections linked to some ground beef. At least two companies have recalled thousands of pounds of ground beef as a precaution, although the CDC said that no common supplier, distributor, or brand of ground beef has been identified as causing the breakout.

To date, there have been 196 reported cases of people sickened with E. coli as part of this outbreak, with at least 12 of those cases in Ohio, the CDC said. At least 28 people have required hospitalization.  Recalled products are labeled with establishment number “EST. 21781” or “EST. 51308” inside the USDA mark of inspection on the boxes, according to the CDC.

Chow Line is a service of The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES) and its outreach and research arms, Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC). Send questions to Chow Line, c/o Tracy Turner, 364 W. Lane Ave., Suite B120, Columbus, OH 43201, or turner.490@osu.edu.

Editor: This column was reviewed by Sanja Ilic, state food safety specialist for OSU Extension.

Learning to dine with diabetes

My dad was recently diagnosed with diabetes and was advised to change his diet. Do you know of any local resource to help us understand which diet changes he’ll need to make? 

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One of the best resources your dad can turn to is his doctor, who might be able to connect him with a dietitian who can possibly help him tailor an eating plan specific to his dietary needs.

Additionally, your dad and the rest of your family can learn more about diabetes and how to manage nutritional needs through a free online course created by Ohio State University Extension family and consumer sciences educators. OSU Extension is the outreach arm of The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences.

The course, Dining with Diabetes:Beyond the Kitchen, offers participants information about how to make healthy food choices when eating at restaurants, going grocery shopping, or planning weekly meals.

The course, available at go.osu.edu/DWDBtKis self-paced and includes interactive presentations, fact sheets and resources, informational videos, and links to websites and apps that provide more information about managing diabetes. During the course, participants can share ideas, questions, and tips with one another, and they can speak directly with OSU Extension professionals.

Your dad also has the option to take part in an in-person Dining with Diabetes class. This four-class program is taught by OSU Extension family and consumer sciences educators and a certified diabetes educator.

The class offers the following:

  • Live cooking demonstrations
  • Menu-planning
  • Diabetes management
  • Carbohydrate-counting
  • Portion-control insights
  • Label-reading
  • Healthy recipe taste-testing

Nutrition is a key component to managing diabetes. Both the online and in-person Dining with Diabetes courses are informative options to help those with diabetes and their families understand the role that healthy, well-balanced meals can play in managing this disease, said Shari Gallup, an OSU Extension educator and one of the instructors for the in-person class.

Studies show that serious complications can arise with diabetes, including cardiovascular disease, blindness, kidney failure, and nontraumatic lower extremity amputations, so it’s very important for those managing this disease to understand the role that nutrition plays in their health.

“Some of the people who have taken the class say that they now read the nutrition labels on the foods they buy and that they’ve increased their daily exercise,” Gallup said. “Others have reported that they are cooking with olive oil more and that they’ve seen their blood sugar levels decrease after using some of the tips and techniques they’ve learned in class.”

OSU Extension periodically offers the Dining with Diabetes class in 31 Ohio counties. To find the class closest to you, go to go.osu.edu/CxXV.

Chow Line is a service of The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences and its outreach and research arms, Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. Send questions to Chow Line, c/o Tracy Turner, 364 W. Lane Ave., Suite B120, Columbus, OH 43201, or turner.490@osu.edu.

Editor:This column was reviewed by Shari Gallup, educator, family and consumer sciences, OSU Extension.

Never a good idea to wash raw poultry

I saw a discussion on social media this week that said not to wash raw chicken before cooking it. But I always rinse mine with a mixture of lime or lemon juice and vinegar, which my mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother did as well. Why should I stop doing that now?

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The fact is that you shouldn’t wash or rinse raw chicken or any other raw poultry before cooking it.

Period.

This is because rinsing or washing raw chicken doesn’t kill any bacterial pathogens such as campylobacter, salmonella, or other bacteria that might be on the inside and outside of raw chicken. But when you wash or rinse raw chicken, you are likely splashing chicken juices that can spread those pathogens in the kitchen and contaminate other foods, utensils, and countertops, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In fact, some estimates say the splatter can spread out and land on surfaces up to 3 feet away.

That’s a problem because pathogens such as campylobacter and salmonella can survive on surfaces such as countertops for up to 32 hours, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service.

The only way to kill these potentially dangerous bacteria is to cook the chicken to an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit.

You likely saw the social media discussion the CDC had on Twitter this week, after the government agency sent a tweet advising consumers not to wash raw chicken before cooking it. That tweet was met with more than 1,000 responding comments debating the merits of whether or not to follow the CDC’s advice.

Although many consumers responded that they’ve always rinsed raw chicken before eating it—with many saying it’s a cultural custom for them to do so—it’s never a good idea to rinse raw poultry if you want to lessen your chance of developing a foodborne illness.

Practicing sound, safe food handling is important, considering that 48 million Americans get sick with a foodborne illness every year, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die, according to the CDC.

Additionally, after handling raw poultry or any other raw meat, it’s important to wash your hands with soap for at least 20 seconds, rinse them under warm running water, and dry them with a clean cloth or paper towel.

You should also wash any surfaces that might have come into contact with the raw chicken or its juices. Use hot, soapy water to rinse off the surfaces, let them dry, and then use a kitchen sanitizer on them.

Lastly, be sure to cook your chicken to an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit, using a food thermometer to measure the temperature, the CDC advises.

Chow Line is a service of The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES) and its outreach and research arms, Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC). Send questions to Chow Line, c/o Tracy Turner, 364 W. Lane Ave., Suite B120, Columbus, OH 43201, or turner.490@osu.edu.

Editor: This column was reviewed by Sanja Ilic, state food safety specialist for OSU Extension.

More foodborne illness outbreaks detected last year

It seems like there have been more foodborne illnesses in recent years. Is that true?

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Sort of. More outbreaks have been detected in recent years, although the overall number of foodborne illnesses is thought to have remained largely the same.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there was an uptick in the number of detected foodborne illness outbreaks last year.

In fact, in a new report released last week, the CDC said that 120 Americans died as a result of foodborne illnesses last year and 25,606 Americans reported foodborne illnesses. Of those, 5,893 people required hospitalizations.

The CDC said it investigated 23 multistate foodborne illness outbreaks last year, several of which included reported cases of foodborne illnesses in Ohio. Some of the larger multistate outbreaks included E. coli outbreaks linked to romaine lettuce, ground beef, raw flour, and alfalfa sprouts; and salmonella outbreaks linked to raw turkey products, Kellogg’s Honey Smacks cereal, precut melons, and kratom.

The report also found that there was an increase in the detected number of infections caused by eight specific pathogens: campylobacter, cyclospora, listeria, salmonella, Shiga toxin–producing E. coli, shigella, vibrio, and yersinia.

However, it’s important to note that although detection of foodborne illnesses has increased, the overall incidence of cases has not, according to the CDC.

In other words, although more outbreaks have been reported, the food supply is not necessarily less safe. Rather, we are just getting better at detecting problems when they do occur, said Abigail Snyder, an assistant professor and a food safety field specialist with The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES).

Additionally, foodborne diseases are preventable through the application of various proactive food safety programs, she said.

To help restaurants and the food service industry lessen their odds of causing an outbreak foodborne illness, food safety experts with CFAES offer food safety training to Ohio food service employees.

The ServSafe training is offered by Ohio State University Extension, CFAES’ outreach arm. It focuses on key areas to reduce the transmission of foodborne illnesses: employee health and hygiene; clean, sanitized equipment and utensils; process management; and ingredient sourcing, preparation, and storage, among others, Snyder said.

Last year, OSU Extension offered more than 125 food safety trainings for the restaurant industry and trained more than 1,700 food service employees, including restaurant managers, school food service personnel, nursing home staff, and other food service personnel.

The classes are taught by OSU Extension family and consumer sciences educators, who are certified instructors through the National Restaurant Association. The classes are offered at several sites statewide and are open to small, medium, and large food service establishments, she said.

“By having strong food safety programs in place, companies reduce the possibility of increased costs due to having to discard product to control food safety, facing potential closures and regulatory action, and of course, the variety of costs that can arise if an outbreak of foodborne illness is linked to their product,” Snyder said.

Chow Line is a service of The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES) and its outreach and research arms, Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC). Send questions to Chow Line, c/o Tracy Turner, 364 W. Lane Ave., Suite B120, Columbus, OH 43201, or turner.490@osu.edu.

Editor: This column was reviewed by Abigail Snyder, an assistant professor and a food safety field specialist with CFAES.