The University of Arizona

The Safety Of Meat Products

Hamdi Ahmad and John Marchello
Meat Science Laboratory, University Of Arizona

The safety of meat is greatly influenced by storage temperature, especially fresh meat. Over 63% of the food- borne illnesses in the US is attributed to temperature abuse of foods. We use the phrase “life begins at 40” when discussing food safety. Most food pathogens do not multiply at temperatures less than 40o F to the infectious level within the acceptable shelf-life duration.

In our consumer education programs, we stress storage temperature because spoiled meat under high storage temperature is more dangerous than spoiled meat under low storage temperature. This is due to the fact that most food borne pathogens will grow to dangerous levels if storage temperature goes above 40º F. We have conducted several experiments to emphasis this point.

Following are some of the data that were collected from these studies.

Fresh ground beef from the University of Arizona Meat Science Laboratory was packaged into 8 packages wrapped in saran wrap and four of the packages were stored at 40º F and the others were stored at 50º F. Meat was tested for total microbial growth at Day 1, Day 3, Day 5, and Day 8. On Day 1, meat from both packaging procedures had 3.6 x 103 bacteria per gram of meat.

At Day 3, meat stored at 50º F had about 6 times more bacterial count (4.2 x 105 bacteria per gram of meat) than meat stored at 40º F (6.8 x 104). Both meat samples were still edible at this point.

On Day 5, meat stored at 50º F had about 276 times more bacterial count (5.8 x 107) than the meat stored at 40º F (2.1 x 105). It is important to note that meat stored at 50º F developed an off odor, which made it unacceptable for consumption, while the meat stored at 40º F was still consumable.

On Day 8, even meat stored at 40º F had developed an off odor to an unacceptable level.

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