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K-State Researchers Awarded Nearly $1 Million to Test Remedies, Investigate Link Between E. Coli and Distillers' Grains
Date:8/21/2008

re is a possibility that food can become contaminated with potentially harmful bacteria," Hunt said. "Occasional recalls of potentially contaminated ground beef in recent years are a sign that safety checks are working -- hamburger lovers do not need to give up their favorite food."

Consumers need to be mindful that recommendations for cooking ground beef have changed. Generations have been brought up to think that when ground beef browns, it's cooked. That's no longer true, Hunt said.

In the mid-1980s, K-State meat science researchers were asked to study the possibility of reducing the percentage of fat in ground beef without compromising taste and texture.

As the K-State researchers studied ground beef with differing proportions of fat, they observed how the meats cooked and noted that some ground beef browned prematurely, before it had reached the safe-to-eat temperature of 160 F.

The color of meat depends on the oxygen in the muscle cells, Hunt said. As an example, he explained that fresh ground beef is bright red because oxygen is incorporated into the meat as it is ground. As the meat ages, it loses oxygen, which causes the color to change. The oxygen in the muscle is carried by myoglobin, which is similar to hemoglobin that carries oxygen in humans.

Observations during the study prompted researchers to recommend that temperature -- not color -- should be used as a test for doneness, Hunt said.

In a restaurant, consumers are advised to order a ground beef patty cooked to at least medium, or 160 F. At home, they are advised to check end-point temperature with a meat thermometer.

"Using a meat thermometer is the only sure way to tell if meat is properly cooked," Hunt said.

The K-State researchers are among the more than 150 K-State experts working in the arena of food safety, animal health and agricultural health. More than $70 million has been dedicated to research in these areas since 1999.


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SOURCE Kansas State University
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