Activist Watch (Sarah Hubbart) By Sarah Hubbart
Sarah Hubbart is the communications director for the Animal Agriculture Alliance.

Dear Rachael Ray...

(The views and opinions expressed in this blog are strictly those of the author.)

Rachael Ray on The View

Dear Rachael Ray,

First off, let me just say that I am a big fan of yours from way back. I have to admit that I often find myself watching your 30 Minute Meals at the gym. (Maybe it’s just me, but the Food Network is my first choice while on the treadmill.)

So, I was understandably shocked by some of the food safety “tips” that you offered during the June 6 episode of The View. You were on the show promoting your new burger cookbook, but some of the food handling advice that you gave was more than a little troubling.

Whoopi Goldberg was just about to bite into one of your new Cuban Patty Melts (which look fabulous, by the way), when she asked if it is okay to eat burgers with a red center. The patty melt looked rather pink, and Whoopi was concerned if it could make her sick.

You answered that as long as the beef is “organic or grass fed”, then it is safe from E. coli. You said that the recent food recalls were due “mass-produced” meat. You also encouraged folks to grind their own hamburger because it is safer than buying hamburger from the store.

But, that’s just not true at all. All ground beef must be cooked to reach an internal temperature of 160 degrees in order to kill bacteria. (The color of the hamburger doesn’t really matter – use a thermometer!)  That is because bacteria like E. coli are found naturally in the environment and the intestinal tracts of healthy cattle whether they live in a feedlot or on a pasture. Research hasn’t shown a significant difference in the likelihood of E. coli between the two.

I like how this beef producer put it: “Whether the beef is fed grass, hay, corn, soybean meal, or Krispy Kreme donuts also has nothing to do with the safety of the hamburger. Whether the beef is processed in a large facility, local butcher shop, or at home the same rules apply.”

There are quite a few myths out there about the differences between organic and conventional foods. Sometimes it can be hard to tell the fact from the fiction. But misinformation can be dangerous.

Food safety is everyone’s responsibility. The farmer, processor, and retailer need to provide healthy, safe products to the consumer. But the consumer (even if he or she is a celebrity chef!) needs to follow critical food safety practices, like hand washing, separating raw meat and poultry from ready-to-eat products, proper storage and refrigeration, and cooking meat to the required temperature.

I hope you keep these facts in mind during your next stop on the book tour. (And here is some more good information about modern beef production, in case you are interested!)


A Burger Fan


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