Thinking about having a burger for dinner? Cool, great choice! Follow-up question: do you enjoy the taste of poop?
A new study conducted by Consumer Reports analyzed nearly 500lbs of ground beef from grocery stores in 26 US cities and found that all of it contained bacteria that signified fecal contamination -- which, in addition to being gross, can cause blood infections or UTIs. The study also found that conventionally produced beef is twice as likely to be contaminated by superbugs (dangerous bacteria resistant to three or more classes of antibiotics) than sustainably raised beef.
According to the report, almost 20% of the ground beef contained C. perfringens, which causes nearly 1 million cases of food poisoning per year, and 10% had a strain of S. aureus bacteria, which produces a toxin that can make you sick (it also can't be destroyed, even if you cook the beef at the recommended 160° F).
Only 1% of the ground beef contained salmonella -- but before you breathe a sigh of relief, Urvashi Rangan, executive director of the Center for Food Safety and Sustainability at Consumer Reports says, "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." There's no winning here!
Consumer Reports suggests looking for labels like "no antibiotics" or "grass-fed organic" when buying ground beef. It notes that while sustainably raised beef is more expensive, it's ultimately the safest choice (as well as the most humane).
Also, sadly, your nose isn't going to help you. "There’s no way to tell by looking at a package of meat or smelling it whether it has harmful bacteria or not," Rangan says. "You have to be on guard every time." The report suggests keeping your raw meat away from other foods and cooking it to at least medium (160° F). Unfortunately for medium-rare lovers, eating anything cooked bloodier than that is risky.
For the record, this in no way means we're switching to veggie burgers.
Lucy Meilus is a staff writer for Thrillist and has never had a veggie burger. Follow her on Twitter at @Lucymeilus and send news tips to firstname.lastname@example.org.