Just FYI…The Ground Beef You’re Eating Has Fecal Matter In It

Managing Editor, Life
12.22.15 21 Comments


Let’s try to keep semi-calm about this. “Your ground beef is filled with poo and guts and urine” is a splashy way to open an article, but really, what doesn’t have a little poo and guts and urine in it? As Cormac McCarthy tries to remind us over and over, poo and guts and urine are all a part of life.

As a food writer who eats out a lot, I’m keenly aware of the fact that I’ve probably eaten some undesirable matter — a few times because I sent food back, a few times because a sous chef forgot to wash her hands, a few times because a waiter re-watched Fight Club right before his shift. It’s grosses me out to think about, to get really literal and obsessive over, but I chalk it up to “cost of living in a society.”

You want to be around other living things? You’re going to have some micrograms of their waste products sneak into your body.

Still… I do understand that avoiding bacteria is desirable. And if you want to avoid bacteria, you might also want to avoid ground beef. Because Consumer Reports has discovered that ground beef is literally full of sh*t. They recently examined 458 pounds of ground beef (organic, standard issue, grass fed, all of it) and found that a certain percentage contained bacteria that signaled fecal contamination.

What is this certain percentage?


All 458 pounds was poo ridden, and that wasn’t all:

Almost 20 percent contained C. perfringens, a bacteria that causes almost 1 million cases of food poisoning annually. Ten percent of the samples had a strain of S. aureus bacteria that can produce a toxin that can make you sick. That toxin can’t be destroyed—even with proper cooking.

So…yikes. 1% of the sample turned up salmonella, which is hard to stress over until you consider how much ground beef we consume and how treacherous salmonella is.

That may not sound worrisome, but, says [Urvashi] Rangan [Ph.D., executive director of the Center for Food Safety and Sustainability at Consumer Reports], “extrapolate that to the billions of pounds of ground beef we eat every year, and that’s a lot of burgers with the potential to make you sick.” Indeed, salmonella causes an estimated 1.2 million illnesses and 450 deaths in the U.S. each year.

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