It’s 6 p.m., your tummy’s growling, and you continue to don’t know what to make for dinner. And then, the sunshine dawns: Somewhere within the chaos of the fridge, there lurks a pound of uncooked floor beef.

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Sure, it’s positively been greater than per week since you acquire it. And it’s beginning to look slightly … totally different. But is it nonetheless suitable for eating?

And if it has gone dangerous and also you do eat it, will it damage you?

We talked with registered dietitian Lillian Craggs-Dino, DHA, RDN, LD, to search out the solutions to those meaty questions, and plenty of extra.

How to inform in case your floor beef’s gone dangerous

In the entire, large universe of issues to eat, floor beef holds a particular place.

Basically, as a result of we eat loads of it. In truth, knowledge from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) signifies that in 2020, the world ate greater than 130 billion kilos of beef. In the United States, floor beef makes up greater than half of the meat consumed within the nation. In 2017, for example, Americans ate, on average, a whopping 54.5 pounds of floor beef in dishes like burgers, tacos, meatballs, chili and different tasty meals.

But on the similar time, its very nature creates substantial well being dangers. The technique of grinding up beef creates extra floor space, which suggests extra locations for microorganisms to cover. As a end result, floor beef can go dangerous shortly — extra so than a steak or different bigger cuts of meat.

“Ground beef is a particular concern,” notes Dr. Craggs-Dino, “because its spoilage isn’t always as obvious as other products. If you’re looking at something that has fuzzy mold sprouting on it, you are probably going to think, ‘Oh, I’m not eating that.’ But ground beef can be a little trickier. It can actually be starting to spoil, and you might not notice anything.”

Two types of microorganisms can take up residency in ground beef. The first form, spoilage micro organism, may cause the meat to lose high quality and develop a foul odor and style, however they often aren’t dangerous to eat. Pathogenic micro organism, alternatively, can’t be seen or smelled, however they’re harmful and may result in food poisoning.

To make issues much more sophisticated, if spoilage micro organism are current, their pathogenic buddies are more likely to be shut behind. So, even when spoilage micro organism received’t make you sick, their presence is an indication that dangerous actors like E. coli, Salmonella or Campylobacter are there as effectively.

Luckily, there are sometimes indicators that spoilage has occurred. Keep them in thoughts whenever you look at a package deal of floor meat:


“Outside, ground beef should look nice and pink,” says Dr. Craggs-Dino. “Sometimes, the inside may look a little brown, and that’s OK, too. But if it’s starting to turn a funky gray — inside or out — then you know something is a little off. Your food could already be spoiled by that point.”


“If you open the package and the meat feels or looks slimy, that’s a problem,” states Dr. Craggs-Dino. “Fresh ground beef should be a little firm to the touch and crumbly. But if it’s sticky and looks wet, that’s not so good. I know it sounds kind of gross. But hopefully, a person would see that and get turned off.”


The scent of contemporary floor beef is barely noticeable. But it’s a special story if the meat has gone dangerous, says Dr. Craggs-Dino. “You open the package and it just doesn’t smell right. If it smells rancid, or tangy, or just plain putrid, that’s a sign of spoiled meat.”

Expiration date

The expiration date printed on the label is one other necessary clue to your meat’s security. Sometimes referred to as the “best before” date, the expiration date tells you when the meals is more likely to begin going dangerous. The steering right here is easy. “Don’t eat food past the expiration date,” advises Dr. Craggs-Dino. “If you aren’t going to be able to use it by that date, freeze it. Your ground beef will keep in the freezer for about four months.”

And don’t confuse the expiration date with the sell-by date, she cautions. “The sell-by date is a guideline for the retailer, saying, ‘Look, we can keep this meat on the shelf until this day.’ Assuming you buy it, bring it home and put it right into the refrigerator, you can still eat the ground beef for two days after the sell-by date. If you go past that, though, you are putting yourself at risk.”

What occurs if I eat it, anyway?

If you eat meals that accommodates pathogens like E. coli or Salmonella, likelihood is you’ll get a foodborne sickness like meals poisoning.

And meals poisoning is not any joke, stresses Dr. Craggs-Dino.

“All of us have probably had a touch of food poisoning at least once in our lives,” she says. “You know, you go out, you have a lovely meal, it tastes wonderful, and then you go home and your stomach starts churning. Then, you start feeling gassy and an hour later, you’re having diarrhea. That’s a type of foodborne illness.”

Unfortunately, not all instances are that delicate. “Foodborne illnesses can transition into something really dangerous,” she cautions. “If you are starting to vomit, if you are running a fever, those are symptoms of a dangerous infection. At that point, I recommend you go to the ER, since this can develop into a life-threatening illness.”

Children below the age of 5, folks older than 65, people who find themselves pregnant and folks with weakened immune methods are at specific threat for severe penalties from foodborne sicknesses. They ought to at all times see a healthcare supplier if meals poisoning is suspected.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), severe long-term results of foodborne sickness can embody:

For some folks, these well being issues can final for weeks or months after recovering from a foodborne sickness. For others, they by no means go away.

The nameless sage had it proper: “When in doubt, throw it out.” It’s not well worth the threat of sickness.

How to securely retailer and deal with floor beef

You purchased the bottom beef. Now what do you do with it?

When it involves protected meals dealing with, the USDA gives these pointers:

  • Cleanliness prevents sickness. Wash your fingers typically, in heat, soapy water, particularly earlier than and after dealing with meals, and after utilizing the lavatory, dealing with pets, altering a diaper or blowing your nostril. Also, you should definitely completely wash counter tops and slicing boards that’ve are available in contact with uncooked meat. “It’s all about cleanliness, hygiene and disinfection,” Dr. Craggs-Dino reiterates.
  • Keep meals aside to keep away from cross-contamination. “We can easily transfer spoilage microorganisms from one thing to another,” she provides. “So you have to make sure you keep foods apart.” One method to do that is by utilizing separate slicing boards for various meals — one for meats and a second one for vegetables and fruit, for example. If you employ a single slicing board, you should definitely disinfect it between makes use of.
  • Take your meals’s temperature. Heat kills micro organism and helps stop foodborne sickness. For floor beef, the minimal protected inside temperature is 160 levels Fahrenheit (71.1 levels Celsius). How are you able to inform when your burger is there? “Use a thermometer,” says Dr. Craggs-Dino. “You can’t eyeball it, especially if it’s on a grill. It looks all nice and wonderful on the outside, but then you bite into it and it’s still bleeding, you know? That would be not so good.”
  • Keep meals chilled. Cold temperatures preserve most dangerous micro organism from rising, so refrigerate your floor beef promptly. (Make positive to maintain the temperature in your fridge beneath 40 F/4.44 C. And whilst you’re at it, make certain to maintain your fridge clear, as effectively!) Don’t depart your floor beef in a sizzling automotive or sitting on the counter. “Food left out at room temperature can become contaminated with microbes within two hours,” says Dr. Craggs-Dino.
    Don’t overlook the advantages of freezing, both. “If you aren’t going to cook the ground beef today, put it in the freezer. That will extend its lifetime and give you a lot of leeway when it comes to using it up.” And when it’s time to thaw that frozen meat, do it within the fridge, says Dr. Craggs-Dino. “Defrosting on the countertop would not be good.”

The final phrase

Color, texture, scent and the expiration date all provide necessary clues in case your floor meat has gone dangerous or if it’s suitable for eating. And in case you have any doubts concerning the high quality or freshness of your floor beef, throw it out — the choice could possibly be meals poisoning.

But within the meantime, you possibly can guarantee your floor beef stays contemporary and healthful so long as attainable with these 4 guidelines:

  • Keep your fingers and tools clear.
  • Avoid cross-contamination.
  • Cook your floor beef to an inside temperature of 160 F/71.1 C (and use a meat thermometer to make sure).
  • Keep floor beef refrigerated at beneath 40 F/4.44 C till you’re able to cook dinner it.

Now, hearth up the grill, wash your fingers and watch these burgers sizzle!

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