’s Lacie Thrall posted a great quiz about food safety in regards to beef preparation on the website. The beef industry has been making strong steps to protect our beef supply, although we still have some foodborne outbreaks from bacteria such as Salmonella, E. coli, and Listeria.

Restaurants and consumers are the last step in the safety chain of events for our food supply, so the quiz is a great way to educate yourself:


Question: The muscle tissue of healthy cattle is sterile. True or false?
Answer: True. Muscle tissue of healthy cattle is virtually sterile, so the main way bacteria invade is during processing, handling and preparation.


Question: Beef must stay cold to help prevent spoilage and bacterial growth. Beef freezes at 28 degrees F. If we refrigerate beef, will bacteria grow on it? Yes or no.
Answer: Yes. Bacteria still grows in refrigeration, but a much slower rate. Bacteria double every 6 hours at 40 degrees F and every hour at 50 degrees F. For beef, store it very cold (optimum 35 to 28 degrees F) to extend the shelf life and slow spoilage bacteria.


Question: US Dept. of Agriculture inspects and grades the domestic meat supply. USDA beef inspection is mandatory for wholesomeness. Grading of beef is for palatability (tenderness, juiciness, and flavor when cooked.) Is USDA grading of beef mandatory in the U.S? Yes or no.
Answer: No. USDA inspection of beef is mandatory, but grading is a voluntary program paid for by the meat packers and ultimately the consumer for the better cuts. Grading sets standards of quality and yield used in the buying and selling of beef.


Question: Selection of quality cuts of beef is an important factor. According to USDA, how many "grades" of beef are there? (3, 5, or 8 grades.)
Answer: There are 8 USDA quality grades — Prime, Choice, Select, Standard, Commercial, Utility, Cutter, and Canner. Muscle firmness, color and texture, maturity and marbling are the factors that determine quality grades. The top three quality grades (Prime, Choice and Select) are the ones most familiar to consumers. Prime is typically sold to restaurants, although some specialty markets may carry it. Choice is the most widely available grade in the market followed by Select.


Question: E. coli is a bacteria known for foodborne outbreaks associated with beef via cross-contamination. It is commonly found in the intestines of warm blooded animals (cattle, pigs, etc.) and humans. There are about 600 types or strains of E. coli. Do all strains of E. coli bacteria cause foodborne illness? Yes or no.
Answer: No. Most are harmless. Only 4 of the 600 E. coli strains are known to be pathogenic (disease causing), including E. coli 0157:H7 in beef. The concern is that E. coli 0157:H7 is a very low dose pathogen, meaning it takes very few (10-100) to cause illness, compared to other types of bacteria. It has been the cause of serious health complications and even death in victims.


Question: Which cut(s) of beef are more susceptible to E.coli contamination? (steak / roasts / prime rib / ground beef / or all cuts.)
Answer:All can be contaminated on the outer surface in processing, but whole cuts such as steak and roasts are safer because proper cooking temperatures kill all forms of E. coli on the surface. Ground beef is at the greatest risk because surface bacteria are transferred to the interior of the meat during grinding and must get to a higher internal temperature to kill the bacteria.


Question: A stem thermometer is recommended for checking the internal temperature of cooked beef. According to the FDA Food Code, what safe minimum temperature(s) do we cook steak and ground beef to? (125 degrees F / 145 degrees F / 155 degrees F.)
Answer: Minimum internal cooking temperature for beef steak is 145 degrees F for 15 seconds and ground beef is 155 degrees F for 15 seconds. A-8. No — not unless the tray and tong is washed and sanitized between the raw and cooked steps. In a food service establishment or home kitchen, educate yourself and your crew about cross-contamination prevention.