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AFF Sentinel V20#36-Streaming Network Looks At Food Safety

Beef Gets Fair Treatment But Food Prep Still Important at Home

Steve Dittmer | AFF Sentinel

Colorado Springs, CO

Originally sent to subscribers 08/02/23

This story is about the review of the Netflix documentary that airs tonight. We haven't had the chance to see the flick yet.

A review of a documentary titled, “Poisoned: the Dirty Truth About Your Food,” certainly sounds scary to food producers anywhere along the food chain. Bad publicity takes a toll on all food production. But beef really got a fair shake from the review we saw.

 Produce took more of the hits on pathogen fears. But thankfully the flick featured Mansour Samadpour, a real scientist with real experience in food production and lab work, (“Farm to Table to Hospital,” review, Wall Street Journal, 08/02/23). Samadpour founded IEH Laboratories and Consulting Group and Mohammad Koohmaraie is head of the meats division. IEH was integrally involved in helping the beef industry figure out how to deal with E. coli 0157:H7 and advised Chipotle on system overhauls to deal with their produce pathogen problems a few years ago.

The documentary harkens back to the Jack in the Box crisis in 1992-93, noting that “The reforms that followed have largely eradicated the perils of meat.”

We would quibble with the term "perils," but given the kind of treatment we've gotten in the past, we'll take it.

That probably overstates things, as the risk has been vastly reduced. But the industry pays a big bill in production, testing and withholding procedures every day that makes that risk minuscule but still counsels vigilance.

The story notes the cleanliness of a poultry plant they visit but even so, a sample -- taken by the filmmaker -- contains “some salmonella.” We don’t know how the sample was taken, who tested it and how. But the tour of the plant demonstrates a transparency the reviewer notes that “inspires confidence” but realistically he ponders if that pathogen can ever be eradicated.

Of course, the answer is “no” but the meat industry has made great strides in controlling it and vastly reducing its presence in the food supply.

In addition, we have the advantage of being a food that should be cooked before consumption, something produce consumed raw doesn’t have.

According to the review, personal responsibility is addressed in the flick, a welcome change from some of the sensationalist “documentaries” that skip that factor and simply put all the blame on the food production chain. The flick outlines a cross contamination scenario for the package of chicken a person brings home that is realistic and should be mandatory viewing for all home cooks.

The film notes the CDC claims 48 million people each year are affected by food borne illnesses but “how that number is determined is not explained.”

Ever since the CDC and Washington’s public health establishment covered themselves with ignominy over Covid, it is interesting to see their pronouncements are viewed with some degree of skepticism. We would love to see their methodology, given that much of the time from our experience, when people get sick from viruses, their first reaction is, “It must be something I ate.” Yet food safety practices at home range from the careless to atrocious.

While we’re discussing food prep, a note that you should emphasize to your friends and relatives. Kind of a public service. There is a huge difference in the proper treatment of steaks and roasts and ground beef. Ground beef needs more careful treatment, to be kept under refrigeration until cooking and requires more contamination prevention for the rest of the kitchen.

The biggest tip most home cooks could use to improve their grilling is just the opposite. Pulling steaks out of the refrigerator and giving them time to come closer to room temperature yields a more more evenly done steak or roast than pulling it right out of the frig and putting it on the heat. Surface heat will kill any possible pathogens on the meat’s surface and muscle meats have had no opportunity to have contamination in their interior.

Ground product is a different story because of the grinding process and needs proper treatment and should be cooked to a higher temperature for safety.

One other note. Grilling burgers, indeed, cooking any ground beef, needs to be handled differently for average adults vs. young children and advanced senior citizens. In the latter two cases, immune systems are either less developed in kids or not as strong as they used to be for seniors. Well done is appropriate for kids and seniors. For steaks and roasts, it’s different, for the reasons we noted above. Rarer cookery to taste is fine for muscle cuts.

Since we’ve wandered off into beef cookery, cattlemen and packers paid for the best advice with their checkoff dollars, so here’s a link to cooking technique and proper cooking temps for ground beef grilling from the checkoff’s “Beef It’s What’s For Dinner” website. Share it with friends or relatives who have some questions. Directions specifically about beef burgers is towards the bottom of the page:

Netflix will air the documentary on Wednesday, Aug 02 for the first time.


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