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Tis the Season to Avoid Raw Meat

Photo courtesy of USDA

The holiday season encourages nostalgia and makes mouths water for traditional dishes.

Megan Buckles wrote about some risky traditions you may want to avoid in the Congressional and Public Affairs Staff, Food Safety and Inspection Service, USDA blog.  

[pullquote]Everyone loves spending time with family and friends enjoying special winter treats, but you might want to think twice before reaching for some traditional dishes. Raw meat dishes like tartare may be more common this time of year, but they still come with health risks.

‘Tiger meat’ is another traditional winter dish. Despite the name, this dish is not made using meat from tigers. It’s a holiday mixture of raw ground beef, raw eggs, onions and other seasonings served on rye bread or crackers. Beef tartare, tiger meat and dishes alike have ground beef and eggs that pose a health hazard when eaten undercooked or raw, she wrote.[/pullquote]

Not All Traditions Are Safe

Raw ground beef has been associated with several large outbreaks of foodborne illness.

In 2012, an E. coli O157: H7 outbreak, which sickened 17 people in Wisconsin, was caused by this traditional dish.

E. coli infections can ruin your holiday, causing severe stomach cramps and diarrhea, kidney failure and even death. E. coli is particularly dangerous for people with weakened immune systems, children and older adults.

In addition to E. coli, eating raw ground beef and raw egg can expose you to salmonellalisteria and campylobacter bacterium.

Cook To the Right Temperature

Most bacteria in meat, poultry, seafood and eggs can be killed by thorough cooking. To prevent illness, ground beef should always be cooked to an internal temperature of 160 °F. The only way to tell if the temperature is right is with a food thermometer. Color is not an accurate indicator that ground beef is fully cooked. Also, if you’re cooking another dish like meatballs or meatloaf, remember not to try any of the dishes before cooking, even if you just want to taste the seasoning.

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