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Meat me at 160°F

August 30, 2016

By: Kristen Spotz, Senior Manager, Food Safety and Quality Assurance and Jeanette Litschewski, Intern, Science Program Management

A visual check for cooking your meat just won’t cut it. GMA wants all consumers to know the importance of using a thermometer as a primary check for whether your meat is ready. Raw meat has microscopic bacteria that can cause illness ranging from an upset stomach to more serious illnesses.

The World Health Organization estimates that a world average of almost 1 in 10 people each year will contract a food-borne illness. A prevalent pathway for food-borne pathogens is through our meat.

Before your next BBQ this Labor Day, it is important to better understand what causes bacteria to enter our meat and how to ensure your meat is thoroughly cooked to kill the dangerous bacteria and to eliminate potential outbreaks. Salmonella and E. coli are the two most common illness-causing bacteria in uncooked and/or undercooked meats and poultry.

It is important to assume all poultry and meat could be at risk for containing Salmonella and/or E. coli.  Therefore, it is crucial that we protect others and ourselves by reducing this risk. The USDA recommends poultry is cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 165°F, while all meats need to be cooked to an internal temperature of at least 160°F.

Visual browning and a fading of the raw pink color are not enough of an indication that your meat or poultry has been fully cooked. The USDA claims that internal temperatures below 140°F are considered to be in the “Danger Zone.” However, meat cooked at this temperature can still appear slightly brown and sometimes even appear cooked.

To eliminate the fear of misjudging your barbecue masterpiece, consider using a meat thermometer. These thermometers can be purchased for as low as $4.13! Although meat thermometers have a wide price range, a lower price for a meat thermometer does not make the tool less effective.

Meat thermometers come in a variety of sizes, colors, and applications. Types of these thermometers include: Digital Instant-Read thermometers and Leave-In thermometers. A Digital Instant-Read thermometer is usually fastest for reporting temperature and is simple to use. Leave-In thermometers are best for slow-cooked meats because the thermometer is oven safe and can continue to show temperature changes. Other features of meat thermometers can include a timer that allows one to preset temperatures and/or hold a reading for a period of time. These thermometers are a reliable way to ensure that all meat is safe for consumption.

This next labor day as you light up the grill, use a meat thermometer and enjoy sizzling BBQ chicken, fall-off-the-bone pork, and mile-high topped burgers without the anxiety of “guestimating” a safe-to-eat meat.


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