This Saturday, I met three friends for lunch.  As the conversation got underway, one of them asked me how working at Marler Clark had changed my eating habits.  It’s a question I hear all the time, and one I have a ready answer for. 

  1. I don’t eat sprouts.  I love a lot of food items that contain sprouts, and I always ask service staff at restaurants to, "hold the sprouts" since the only safe sprouts – in my opinion – are irradiated. 
  2. I don’t cook ground beef very often, and have not cooked a hamburger since I started working for Marler Clark in 2002.
  3. I use a digital food thermometer to measure the temperature of any meat product I cook. 
  4. I always order my hamburgers well-done. 

Hamburger E. coliAs I expected, my friends were shocked that I would "ruin" a hamburger by fully cooking it.  They enjoy their burgers cooked medium, and two of them swore that they had eaten the best hamburger they had ever had the night before meeting me for lunch. 

Our conversation continued, and they kept coming back to my advice to always order hamburgers well-done.  Conceptually, they understood that grinding beef provides more surface area for E. coli contamination and that E. coli can be mixed into the middle of a burger – the place that takes the longest to reach 160 degrees and become safe.  But they aren’t ready to start ordering their burgers well-done, and asked me what I would do if I was in their position and wanted to continue eating my burgers medium.  I explained to my friends that the safest hamburger not cooked to 160 degrees – and not irradiated – is probably a burger that is ground in-house, from one cut of beef, that is ground and prepared under the strictest of food safety standards. 

Today, as I read about the JBS Swift meat recall that includes intact cuts of beef that may have been ground into hamburger at restaurants and retail establishments nationwide, I re-thought my advice.  I’ll be emailing my friends today and letting them know that the only safe medium-cooked hamburger is one that is irradiated.  I hope they pay attention.