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Beef safety?

post #1 of 13
Thread Starter 

The story starts out yesterday when I bought a Tri Tip at Costco. It was one of the pre-rubbed ones that already had rub on it. Also yesterday in a thread about something else, someone posted a chart showing the time/temp for a log5 reduction in bacteria. The statement was made that any meat that is probed, needled/bladed, or other wise punctured, needed to be cooked to 165* or held at a lesser temperature for a relatively long time (80 minutes at 130* if I remember correctly).  

 

With this in mind, I set out to smoke/cook said Tri TIp this morning. I put it into my MES-30 which was pretty cold given that it was 25* last night. I added in my AMNTS and smoked the Tri TIp with no heat for 1.5 hours. The starting I.T. was 44* and after 1.5 hours it had gone up to 58*. I guess that was due to the ambient heat that the AMNTS puts out. 

 

In the meantime, I had fired up the natural gas Weber to about 500*. I took the Tri TIp out of the MES-30 and went straight to the grill. After 18 or so minutes the I.T. was at 135* and I pulled it. I let it rest for about 20 minutes and then refrigerated for easier slicing. 

 

The reason for the concern, as I understand it, is that Costco needles all their meat. Actually, I believe this is due to Costco having lost a court case in Canada. Part of the settlement was an agreement that they would disclose the needling. It was also pointed out that Costco reports the treatment of their meat products due to the court case, while no other retailer is under any such requirement. The meat you are buying at another retailer could well have been needled/bladed and you'd never know, or generally be able to tell. It is also telling that I believe they lost the court case because someone was seriously injured. 

 

 

So my questions:

- How dangerous is it to just grill meat that has been bladed? If it is really that likely that you would be seriously injured. Obviously, lots of people are buying steaks from Costco and I doubt that most of them are cooking them to 165*. Is this OK because the meat is in the danger zone for such a short period of time? Or are these people taking a health risk, most likely completely unaware? 

- How dangerous is it to be eating the Tri Tip that I fixed. I ate it and my wife had some. I'd really like not to kill her or my kids. I've grown attached to them. :30:

- As to the whole probing thing, you see TV chefs all the time using a Thermapen to puncture the meat and check the final temperature. They almost always are looking at medium rare temps of 130-140. This would seem to be in the zone that's to be avoided. Is that type of practice safe? How come food professionals are sticking their meat and not cooking it to 160*. 

- How do you feel comfortable cooking/smoking meat rare that isn't from Costco when you have no idea if it has been needled? Not knowing, doesn't seem a lot safer than knowing and cooking it medium-rare. 

 

Thanks for any input and the education that I'm hoping to receive on the subject. 

post #2 of 13

I never heard of the 165* thing you speak of for whole meat Beef.

The only thing I'm concerned with is if the whole meat has been injected, probed, bladed or whatever, it should be smoked/cooked from 40* IT to 140* IT in no longer than 4 hours. Steaks & Prime Ribs, I generally go to 137*-142* IT.

 

 

Bear

post #3 of 13

How dangerous? Well, that depends...

 

What are your thoughts on Russian Roulette? CDC says 1 in 6 Americans get sick each year from foodborne illness. So spin that barrel, pull the trigger, and see what happens :icon_wink:

 

Personally, though, I won't grill a tri-tip from Costco for this reason.


I will, however, sous vide it. Which, since my wife generally finds tri-tip a bit on the tough side, makes her love it too. The 160-165 idea is that pathogens are killed basically instantly at that temp. As you point out, at lower temp they are still killed, but more slowly. I'll leave it to you to do your own research on what temps/times you feel comfortable with if you go that route.

 

But yes, the takeaway is that intact beef is generally considered safe inside, but a needled tri-tip is no longer intact and should be treated as such.

post #4 of 13

We don't have Tri Tips around here, but it is my understanding that their (Costco) Needled meats should be taken to 160*, not 165*.

We don't have a Costco nearby either. I used to wish we did. :icon_rolleyes:

 

 

Bear

post #5 of 13
Wow! I had no idea about this needling/blading crap that's been going on. I'm a medium rare guy, and I think it's complete sh*t that the usda doesn't require company's to inform the consumer that this is going on....

What in the hell is happening to this country?
post #6 of 13
In my opinion you take a risk at anything you do. Most people at somentime get on the road to drive. At any time you can have something go wrong and get hurt or even die. I am not saying that we dont take precautions. Just look at all the safety improvements that have been made. We can look at all the data that is out there all day, but it does not change the fact we still get on the road and drive.

As for the safe preperation of your food. Most places will put very conservative cooking temps on their package labels based on the USDA or other governing bodies. So I would look at that if you can. If not then you need to use your best judgement, me I would cook it as a whole muscle and treat it as such. I know it was injected, but I have never had a health inspector tell me otherwise about injection. When I ask about pushing the bacteria into the meat they then refer me to how we handle our product. How long was it out of the cooler, sanitation and packaging. Basically how safe do you feel you handle and prep your product? Do you trust where you by it?

I am not on the school of thought that I need to wait till after a certain time to temp my meats when cooking. I insert my probe at the start. Again health inspectors kind of gave me a what are you talking about look when asked about waiting. Make sure it has been cleaned and sanitized first is all I got from them.

The 40-140 in under 4hrs is just a guidline that was put in place by someone who worked with food proffesionally years ago, and used their experiance to set up a guideline for safe smoking because there was a need for it. It is not a USDA or HACCP guidline or requirement. I do feel it is a great one to use and use it myself to judge how things are going in my cooks.

So in a long way to answer your question. No I would not take it to 165, if you donit will be tough and dry. You were only in the danger zone for 2hrs. So I would feel fine with eating it.
post #7 of 13
Thread Starter 

Bear asked about where the 165* came from. The post that originally go me thinking about all of this was: http://www.smokingmeatforums.com/t/159541/what-did-i-do-wrong-pork-loin-wouldnt-get-to-it Yes, I think I got it wrong. It was 160* not 165*. 

 

Here's the chart that DaveOmak posted as part of that thread. It has the temps/times that meat which has been pierced should be held at. http://www.smokingmeatforums.com/content/type/61/id/298316/ 

 

Also, on the package of Tri Tip, Costco points out what the range is for rare, medium, and well. Then, in the very fine print it states something to the effect that "The USDA recommends that all needled meat be cooked to 160*" or something to that effect. I tossed the packaging, or I'd give you the direct quote. 

 

As bear points out, I realize there is some risk to this. What I was hoping  was that one of the food safety mavens on this site could shed some light as to how smoking and grilling medium-rare is comparable to just grilling medium rare. Are all the folks that buy beef from Costco, since they supposedly needle all cuts - not just Tri Tip, risking their and their families health by not cooking everything well done (i.e. 160*)? As hillbilly points out, what about all the other retailers that just don't tell us that the meat was bladed/needled? 

post #8 of 13
Thread Starter 

I was hoping for a response from one of the folks that's really up on the whole food safety issue. In doing more research, I came across a Consumer Reports article on the subject from last year that was very informative. This sure seems like more of an issue than I thought it was. It really makes me question eating my beef medium rare. While not a large set of people are affected, I'd really rather not make myself or my family ill. 

 

What I found interesting was: 

"The Department of Agriculture estimates, based on 2008 data, that 37 percent of companies that slaughter or process beef use mechanical tenderization, producing more than 50 million pounds a month. Yet federal meat inspectors are not even testing this tenderized beef for E. coli. That’s despite the fact that “these products present some additional risk for E. coli contamination,” according to a recently released audit by the USDA’s Office of the Inspector General, which recommended that the agency reevaluate its testing policy.

 

Because obvious marks aren’t left by the small needles or blades used, you can’t tell by looking at a piece of meat whether it has been mechanically tenderized. And no labeling is required to let you know that it has and therefore must be cooked more thoroughly.

 

Mechanically tenderized beef caused at least five E. coli O157:H7 outbreaks between 2003 and 2009, causing 174 illnesses, one of them fatal, according to the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.* The first documented outbreak in 2003 was traced to blade-tenderized, marinade-injected frozen filet mignon steaks consumers cooked at home, resulting in 13 illnesses that landed seven people in the hospital. (The process is also called "blading" or "needling." Costco, for instance, labels the mechanically tenderized beef it sells as "blade tenderized.")

A 2009 outbreak sickened 25 people, killing one and hospitalizing nine who had eaten mechanically tenderized sirloin served in restaurants. (Profiles of people who described the long-term health consequences of  being sickened by E. coli in 2009 after having eaten at restaurants where they ordered medium-rare steaks that had been mechanically tenderized are included in an award-winning series published late last year by ­The Kansas City Star.)

These may not seem like large numbers, but cases reported as part of outbreaks represent only 10 to 25 percent of all lab-confirmed cases of E. coli O157:H7 that are reported annually by state and local health authorities, as is often the case with outbreaks. (Related: Read "Consumer Reports Investigation: Talking Turkey" for details on our tests of ground turkey, which show reasons for concern.)

“And for every lab-confirmed case reported, the national estimate is that there are 26 more out there that aren’t identified,” says Kirk Smith, an epidemiologist at the Minnesota Department of Health."

post #9 of 13
post #10 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by CueInCO View Post
 

I was hoping for a response from one of the folks that's really up on the whole food safety issue. In doing more research, I came across a Consumer Reports article on the subject from last year that was very informative. This sure seems like more of an issue than I thought it was. It really makes me question eating my beef medium rare. While not a large set of people are affected, I'd really rather not make myself or my family ill.

 

What I found interesting was:

"The Department of Agriculture estimates, based on 2008 data, that 37 percent of companies that slaughter or process beef use mechanical tenderization, producing more than 50 million pounds a month. Yet federal meat inspectors are not even testing this tenderized beef for E. coli. That’s despite the fact that “these products present some additional risk for E. coli contamination,” according to a recently released audit by the USDA’s Office of the Inspector General, which recommended that the agency reevaluate its testing policy.

 

Because obvious marks aren’t left by the small needles or blades used, you can’t tell by looking at a piece of meat whether it has been mechanically tenderized. And no labeling is required to let you know that it has and therefore must be cooked more thoroughly.

 

Mechanically tenderized beef caused at least five E. coli O157:H7 outbreaks between 2003 and 2009, causing 174 illnesses, one of them fatal, according to the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.* The first documented outbreak in 2003 was traced to blade-tenderized, marinade-injected frozen filet mignon steaks consumers cooked at home, resulting in 13 illnesses that landed seven people in the hospital. (The process is also called "blading" or "needling." Costco, for instance, labels the mechanically tenderized beef it sells as "blade tenderized.")

A 2009 outbreak sickened 25 people, killing one and hospitalizing nine who had eaten mechanically tenderized sirloin served in restaurants. (Profiles of people who described the long-term health consequences of  being sickened by E. coli in 2009 after having eaten at restaurants where they ordered medium-rare steaks that had been mechanically tenderized are included in an award-winning series published late last year by ­The Kansas City Star.)

These may not seem like large numbers, but cases reported as part of outbreaks represent only 10 to 25 percent of all lab-confirmed cases of E. coli O157:H7 that are reported annually by state and local health authorities, as is often the case with outbreaks. (Related: Read "Consumer Reports Investigation: Talking Turkey" for details on our tests of ground turkey, which show reasons for concern.)

“And for every lab-confirmed case reported, the national estimate is that there are 26 more out there that aren’t identified,” says Kirk Smith, an epidemiologist at the Minnesota Department of Health."

 

One thing I'd point out is that the piece above shows 174 illnesses over a 7 year period.  Multiplying that by the 26x listed, you get 4500 cases.    But, you have to put that in context of 50 MILLION pounds of meat per month, times 12 months, times 7 years.   That's about 4.2 BILLION pounds of meat.    In short, you stand a much better chance of being struck by lighting.

post #11 of 13
Solid point (and math) demosthenes9 but going out riding the lightning seems a helluva lot cooler than dying because of some tainted meat you ate.

Not saying I want to die at all, but dying because of tainted beef would piss me off enough to come back and haunt a beef needling plant or two...
post #12 of 13

Maybe this is just a good reason to buy whole subprimals and slice the steaks yourself Thumbs Up

post #13 of 13

I've talked to the butchers at Costco and they said it was company policy to tenderize all meats and they would not sell meats that have not gone through this process.  If it creates such a dangerous situation, then why does Costco use this method of tenderizing?  This is the main reason I now buy my meats from our local butcher.  Also, I feel the quality of meat is much higher based on the results of the final product we end up with.  I have also found that cost is usually the same or even cheaper at the butcher.  Their St. Louis cut ribs are certainly much meatier from the butcher.

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