Health: Irradiated Beef; (July 1, 2008): Stephanie Stahl Reporting


Source of Article:  Food Irradiation Update (August 2008)


PHILADELPHIA (CBS 3) ― In health, eating hamburgers any way you like them, even rare, without being afraid of getting sick. Medical Reporter Stephanie Stahl has the sizzling details on the high-tech way to make meat safe.

Hamburgers are the all-American favorite. But ground beef is especially prone to being contaminated with the potentially deadly bacteria E. coli. The simple solution is thoroughly cooking burgers to kill any germs.

Now there's an alternative, irradiated beef. Even though it sounds like it, there's no radiation involved. The meat is zapped with an electrical current that destroys any bacteria.

"It's sort of similar to the idea that adding heat to beef would cook it and destroy the bacteria. The electrical current actually destroys the bacteria instead without cooking the meat," said Trent O'Drain, an Executive Chef with Wegmans. He says the grocery store is now selling its own brand of irradiated beef, along with a marketing campaign saying you can "cook it the way you like it."

"They were great, delicious," said Rosalie Brett, a mother of two young boys. She says the new burgers taste just like your typical beef patties, with the extra safety protection. "It would definitely be a good option," said Rosalie.

"My concern as a food safety educator is confusion for the consumer," said Dr. Jennifer Quinlan, a Food Microbiologist at Drexel University. She says the process of irradiation is safe and approved by the FDA. But people might not understand, only irradiated beef is okay to eat rare, not regular ground beef.

"If it results in consumers thinking now it's okay to eat any raw beef. If it gives consumers the idea that they can take their regular beef and now for some reason don't have to cook it as thoroughly, then we run the risk of consumers not cooking their beef as thoroughly," said Dr. Quinlan.

Regular hamburger needs to be cooked to 160 degrees. It's best to use a thermometer to check the temperature. But if you don't have one, to be extra safe make sure the juices are clear and there is no pink in the middle.

The irradiated beef costs ten cents more per pound than
regular fresh ground beef.



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