More than 6.5 million pounds of beef products are being recalled nationwide due to a salmonella outbreak, according to the United States Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service.
The beef, which was produced by JBS Tolleson, includes “various raw, non-intact beef products,” the USDA said in a press release issued Thursday. The beef was packaged on dates ranging from July 26 to Sept. 7 of this year and has establishment number “EST. 267” inside the USDA mark of inspection. It was sold under the brand names Walmart, Cedar River Farms Natural Beef, Showcase, Showcase/Walmart, and JBS Generic.
Health officials have identified JBS Tolleson as the “probable source” of 57 cases of salmonella illnesses that were reported in 16 states between Aug. 5 and Sept. 6.
The USDA is urging people to check the beef in their freezer.
“FSIS is concerned that some product may be frozen and in consumers’ freezers,” officials said in the press release. “Consumers who have purchased these products are urged not to consume them. These products should be thrown away or returned to the place of purchase.”
Salmonella is a bacteria that can cause a person to develop diarrhea, fever, and stomach cramps 12 to 72 hours after being infected with it, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says. The illness usually lasts four to seven days, and most people recover without being treated. However, some people have diarrhea so severe that they need to be hospitalized.
Freezing contaminated beef “may slow down continued growth” of salmonella, but it won’t eliminate it, food safety expert Darin Detwiler, PhD, director of the Regulatory Affairs of Food and Food Industries program at Northeastern University, tells Yahoo Lifestyle.
Although cooking the beef thoroughly will kill salmonella, it’s still not something you want to risk, Felicia Wu, PhD, a professor in the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition at Michigan State University, tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “If you prepared the uncooked ground beef on a surface such as a dish or a cutting board, and then put the cooked finished product back onto that dish or cutting board, then you could inadvertently contaminate the finished product with whatever bacteria were originally in the uncooked ground beef,” she says. Failure to wash your hands properly could also cause cross-contamination.
“Cooking it above 160 degrees is going to take care of reducing risk of bacteria in the product but I would worry much more about handling it,” Benjamin Chapman, PhD, an assistant professor and food safety extension specialist at North Carolina State University, tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “During the thawing and cooking process, you could contaminate your hands and equipment and spread that to other foods.”
If you discover this beef in your freezer or refrigerator, you should discard it or return it to the store where you bought it. “Consumption may cause harm or even worse,” Detwiler says.
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