With summer finally here and the Fourth of July just a few days away, chances are you’ll be doing some backyard grilling soon. If you eat meat, then you know there’s nothing like the juicy taste of a freshly cooked burger, steak or chicken fresh of the barbecue grill.
You’ve probably heard that infection-causing bacteria can live on raw meat. And if that meat is handled improperly or not cooked at the right meat cooking temperatures, those bacteria can get inside your body and possibly cause an infection or food poisoning. In fact, bacteria like E. coli that are more commonly found on meat can cause dangerous and even life-threatening infections.
Recently MRSA and Staph bacteria in meat has become another bacterial hitchhiker on our steaks, poultry and pork. In one study, 47% of meat samples (which included beef, chicken, pork and turkey) were contaminated with Staph aureus.
Meat handling safety tips
The good news is you can keep yourself and your backyard guests safe with a few simple meat handling safety tips. Use the following meat safety tips for storing, handling and cooking your favorite meat or fish:
- Store raw meat away from other foods and inside a water-tight container or bag if possible.
- Wash your hands with soap and water immediately after handling raw meat. And never handle other foods after touching raw meat without washing your hands. You can also handle raw meat with disposable gloves.
- Keep any cutting boards, platters, knives, utensils and marinades that contact raw meat separate and segregated from everything else. Disinfect these surfaces and utensils after use.
- Either keep raw meat in the refrigerator or cook it immediately. Bacteria will grow on meat left sitting at room temperature or outside in the summer heat. So never let it sit in the kitchen or on a table for more than a few minutes.
- When possible, buy antibiotic-free beef, chicken and other meats. Also look for local, grass fed or pasture raised meats if available. Feed animals raised on antibiotics in factory farms can have a higher risk of being sickly, diseased and carrying antibiotic resistant bacteria like MRSA.
- Measure the meat cooking temperatures using a barbecue thermometer or temperature probe. Cooking meats until at least medium or medium-well done is best. Hamburgers should have a temperature of 160 degrees F inside when cooked to medium well. Steaks should be at least 150 degrees F on the inside. Cook poultry to an internal temperature of at least 170 degrees F and pork to 160 or more.
- Avoid sneezing or coughing over meat and other foods. If you have an active Staph or MRSA skin infection, consider wearing disposable gloves when handling food. This will also help protect you from bacteria that may be on the meat.
- If you must eat rare meat, then eat a steak. The surface of steaks usually gets well cooked and bacteria are less likely to contaminate the inside of a steak. However, ground meats, such as hamburger patties, are more likely to have contaminating bacteria throughout.
For more information about Staph and MRSA found on meat, click here.
To your safe, healthy and fun summer,
Microbiologist and Natural Health Expert