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Old 07-04-2008, 07:55 PM   #1
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How likely, realistically, is food poisoning?

For the average meat purchased in a grocery store, not talking about restaurant food here, is there really that high of a risk of getting a food-borne pathogen from meat that is undercooked? Or is it completely impossible to estimate? The reason I ask is that I am wondering how concerned I should be if I am cooking something and it is not completely done - I am not talking about eating raw meat or anything. But say there is a piece of pork that still looks really pink or something, is it something to worry about? Or are there varying degrees of risk depending on beef, poultry, pork? Obviously I try to cook things through the right way, but say for example I cook a pork loin or beef tenderloin and then take it out of the oven/grill, let it rest for 15 minutes, then slice it up and find that it looks undercooked. It's a real hassle to try and fix it 15 minutes after the grill/oven is off and the meat has been resting. What to do in a situation like this?

PS: And I have an instant-read thermometer but it must not work that well because sometimes I use it and it tells the meat is done when it does not look cooked all - and other times it tells me the meat is not done and by the time it says its done, it is bone dry. So I need to look into getting a better thermometer. But until then?


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Old 07-04-2008, 08:25 PM   #2
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This is one of those, "It all depends..." kind of answers.

PORK: Usually not an issue. Pork is not a known carrier of evil bacteria. Once upon a time there was a problem with parasites in pork. Those parasites were easily killed off with heat, so everyone was admonished to cook their pork well done. This lead to a LOT of overcooked pork over the years. My ex cooked pork chops until they were brittle!

These days, pork is not raised in an environment where it is exposed to parasites and they are treated with medications to eliminate any parasites present. Also, the parasites that are no longer there are killed instantly at 137 F. That's very pink. A pork tenderloin with a little pink would be perfectly safe. My SO doesn't care for pink pork so she zaps it in the microwave for a few seconds (NOT a few minutes!)

CHICKEN: A real problem. salmonella and other bacteria can be present in chicken. This bacteria is killed off at a temperature of 161 F. As with pork, it's not a great idea to cook it more just to be on the safe side. That's a formula that leads to lots of dry chicken. Use a reliable thermometer.

BEEF: Whole cuts such as steaks and roasts are safe cooked. Anything present is on the surface and is killed instantly when cooked.

Ground beef is another story because if the surface of a piece of beef is contaminated then ground, any contamination is mixed throughout the meat. That's why you are told to cook burgers through.

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Old 07-05-2008, 11:54 AM   #3
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Agree with Andy. Most food poisoning occurs after cooking or in uncooked foods that are then contaminated, often by unwashed hands.
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Old 07-05-2008, 03:33 PM   #4
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Most food borne illnesses are a result of time/temperature abuse. If the cattle was healthy eating rare or even raw meat isn't necessarily dangerous. It's how it's handled from slaughter to table that makes the difference. If you keep everything sanitized and you undercook something, more than likely you are not in danger.

Do you know how to calibrate your thermometer? If it's not digital, submerge the probe into a glass of ice water. If it doesn't read 32, adjust the dial until it does.
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Old 07-05-2008, 05:36 PM   #5
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I can agree with most of what was stated in the other replies. If you cook all meats to the standard temperatures of 135 degrees F for whole beefs, 145 for pork, 165 for chicken and 155 for chopped beef or hamburger you should not have any problems. The problem with foodborne illness is that you depend on each person that has handled the meats from the slaughter house to your table. Meats have been handled many times before you even see it. Proper handwashing is the most important thing to help prevent foodborne illnesses. There are so many things that can go wrong with foods along the process that you must trust those food handlers to make the right choices in personal hygiene. The most at risk are the young and the old or the pregnant because of underdeveloped or weakened immune system. To play it safe cook everything to the minimum temps. Foodborne illness is no fun and can kill someone.
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Old 07-05-2008, 10:33 PM   #6
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76 million cases annually. You might like to read this page:

Statistics about Food poisoning - WrongDiagnosis.com
Support bacteria. It's the only culture some people have.
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Old 07-06-2008, 03:16 PM   #7
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Nice website. I believe that the figure of $5-6 billion lost each year is a low estimate. They did say medical and lost productivity however, look at just the loss of tomatoes crop, lost with them rotting in the fields because of an outbreak that now they claim could be peppers.

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