Beef food poisoning

This type of food poisoning refers to beef and meat products in general, e.g. beef burgers. It also includes pates, sausages and sliced cooked meats.

Red meat is a good source of protein, vitamins and minerals and is highly versatile as well. It can be grilled, roasted, barbecued and fried although in the latter case it is better to grill than fry for health reasons.

Some cuts of meat are high in saturated fat. This also applies to meat based products such as sausages, pates and sliced meats such as salami. Plus sausage rolls and pies which are also high in saturated fat.

So, from a health perspective it is a good idea to choose lean cuts of meat whenever possible and limit your consumption of pies, sausages, pates and cooked meats.

But another health issue is that of food poisoning.

Meat and food poisoning

When we use the term ‘meat’ we mean red meat in the form of steaks, burgers, sausages and meat related products such as pies and pasties.

Chicken food poisoning is one of the most common forms of food poisoning but it is closely followed by meat food poisoning. And this type of food poisoning is as equally as unpleasant.

The main problem why meat such as beef causes food poisoning is due to a failure to cook it thoroughly. Meat needs to be cooked to the extent that the inside is pink rather than red, and any juices from it run clear.

The only exception to this rule applies to steaks which can be eaten whilst still red inside –known as ‘rare’, but the outside of these will have been sealed at a high temperature. This will have killed any bacteria which live on the outer surface of the meat.

Cooked meat such as beef needs to be kept separate from raw meat to prevent cross contamination. If it has been frozen beforehand then it needs to be allowed to completely thaw out before cooking and cooked at the correct temperature.

Causes of beef food poisoning

Meat food poisoning is caused by any number of bacteria which include:

  • Campylobacter
  • Listeria
  • Salmonella
  • E coli

Campylobacter and salmonella are both found in raw meat. Listeria occurs in meat products such as pates and cooked meats, e.g. salami. E coli can be found in undercooked beef.

These are all discussed in more detail in our bacterial food poisoning section.

These types of food poisoning occur as a result of meat which has been contaminated by bacteria. However, there is another type of food poisoning –that which develops due to parasites –called ‘toxoplasmosis’.

Toxoplasmosis is rare especially in the UK but is likely to be the cause of any cases of parasitical food poisoning. This type of parasite lives in the digestive system of animals for example cats and can easily be passed to humans.

This happens as a result of eating undercooked beef which contains this parasite or food or water which has been in contact with infected animal faeces.

Find out more about this in our parasites section.

Rinsing or washing meat before cooking is another cause of food poisoning. This is seen as mistakenly, a way of removing germs and bacteria but in fact, it can cause these to spread around the kitchen which results in food poisoning.

Many people do this with chicken but this is as equally as risky. Do not, under any circumstances, wash poultry or meat before use.

Symptoms of beef food poisoning

The symptoms of beef food poisoning appear within the first 48 hours after consumption.

They include:

  • Stomach pains/upset stomach
  • Fever
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Nausea
  • Bloating
  • Aches and pains
  • General feeling of being unwell

You have a higher than normal risk of contracting food poisoning if you have a poorly functioning immune system, an underlying medical condition or are in a high risk group, e.g. elderly.

The symptoms of food poisoning develop rather quickly which often distinguishes them from other similar gastrointestinal illnesses.

If these symptoms worsen and lead to dehydration or persist for more than a week then seek medical advice.

Treatment for beef food poisoning

In the vast majority of cases this can be treated at home. This means getting plenty of rest and replacing fluids lost as a result of this illness.

It is important to do so to prevent dehydration.

If your symptoms show any sign of worsening, for example you are unable to keep anything down (and that includes fluids) for more than a day then speak to your GP.

Further advice can be obtained via NHS Direct.

Preventing beef food poisoning

The advice given here refers to all forms of meat based food poisoning.

As in any case of food poisoning, prevention is better than cure. This means care and attention paid to the preparation, cooking and storing of food, and ensuring that utensils and work surfaces are kept clean.

Another important factor is cross contamination. This means ensuring that cooked and raw meats are kept separate, in containers, so that they do not infect one another.

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