There may be faeces in ground beef /

The bacteria can cause blood infections

All types of ground beef in the US – from the most common to that found in natural food stores – contains traces of faecal bacteria which can be harmful humans, a study has found.

Researchers who analysed the prevalence and types of bacteria in ground beef found enterococcus and/or nontoxin-producing E. coli, which can cause blood or urinary tract infections, in all 458 pounds of beef which were examined. Lurking in a fifth of the meet was C. perfringens – which is behind almost 1 million cases of food poisoning in the US each year.

A further ten per cent contained S. aureus bacteria, which can cause vomiting and cannot be destroyed by heat from proper cooking.

Salmonella was meanwhile present in 1 per cent of samples.  MRSA was discovered in three conventional samples, but no samples form sustainable cows.

To make their findings, researchers from Consumer Reports tested 300 packages of beef from 2013 different outlets, encompassing grocery stores, superstores, and natural food shops across 26 US cities.

Researchers said one of the most significant findings was that conventionally raised cows are more likely to have bacteria overall as well as bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics when compared with beef that is raised sustainably.

Urvashi Rangan, Ph.D., executive director of the Center for Food Safety and Sustainability at Consumer Reports said:  “There’s no way to tell by looking at a package of meat or smelling it whether it has harmful bacteria or not. You have to be on guard every time.”

The report said that ground beef poses a further risk as bacteria can be quickly spread through batches during the production process; whereas bacteria on whole cuts, such as steak, generally remain on the exterior and can be easily killed during cooking.

Kneeding during preparation, for example into burgers, poses a further risk. 

Rangan told CBS News: “Remember, when it's ground beef, you're taking it and grinding the bacteria from the surface of the beef into it,” she said. “So unlike a steak, you're really moving all that bacteria all around the beef. So it's especially important for ground beef, to cook it to 160 degrees to be absolutely safe.”


In a statement the North American Meat Institute complained said that beef is “as safe as ever” and that the bacteria identified in the report rarely causes foodborne illness.

“Bacteria occur naturally on all raw food products from beef to blueberries so finding certain types on some foods in a grocery store is not surprising and should not be concerning," the statement said.

It went on that the industry prioritises producing safe meat by "focusing attention on bacteria which are most likely to make people sick, particularly Shiga toxin-producing E. coli and Salmonella."

"It is telling that Consumer Reports did not highlight finding these bacteria on products they tested, which is a strong indication of the overall safety of beef."