Frequently Asked Questions Regarding BSE/Mad Cow Disease
At Omaha Steaks, we are confident in the processes we have in place to guarantee quality, wholesome food to our customers.
BSE (Mad Cow) agents are not present in solid muscle meat products. Omaha Steaks are exclusively solid muscle meat products and even our ground beef is comprised solely of solid muscle meat steak trimmings.
As an added measure of safety, Omaha Steaks also exceeds established industry standards for product quality and the cleanliness of our plant facilities. Ensuring the integrity of our products and the trust and confidence of our customers remains our top priority.
1) Can a human contract BSE or Mad Cow Disease?
BSE (Mad Cow) is an animal disease. The only way that a person would be at risk for exposure to Mad Cow agents would be if they ingested the central nervous tissue (either brains or spinal cord tissue) of an infected animal. Omaha Steaks products have NEVER contained any such tissue.
2) Are BSE agents present in solid muscle tissue like steaks or roasts?
No. BSE agents are never present in solid muscle tissue. Omaha Steaks are solid muscle meat products and contain absolutely no central nervous system tissue. Our ground beef also is comprised solely of solid muscle meat steak trimmings.
3) Can I be confident that the Omaha Steaks beef I purchase is safe?
Yes. Omaha Steaks exceeds established industry standards for product quality and the cleanliness of our plant facilities. All Omaha Steaks are solid muscle meat products free of BSE agents and since we do no actual slaughtering of cattle, there is never central nervous system tissue present in our plant facilities.
4) What safeguards does the USDA have in place to prevent the spread of BSE in the United States?
The United States has employed a multi-firewall strategy to prevent BSE. These firewalls provide a strong assurance that BSE will not impact the U.S. cattle supply.
1st Firewall - Protecting U.S. borders.
The USDA banned the import of cattle from countries with BSE beginning in 1989. As more scientific information became available, many governments including the United States began to focus on preventive controls.
2nd Firewall - Aggressive surveillance.
USDA veterinarians are stationed at every U.S. meat packing plant to check cattle for any signs of the disease. Any animal demonstrating symptoms that could possibly indicated BSE is condemned, removed from the plant and has its brain tissue tested. All non-ambulatory cattle also are banned from the food supply.
3rd Firewall - Controlling what cattle are fed.
Since evidence indicates that BSE may be spread through infected feed, the feeding of any protein derived from ruminant animals (cow, sheep, goat or deer) to cattle has been banned since 1997.
4th Firewall - Removal of specified risk materials.
Since BSE agents are associated with specific risk materials like the brain or spinal cord tissue of an infected animal, the government requires the precautionary removal of such materials to protect human health.
These combined efforts provide a high degree of assurance that the U.S. beef supply is and will remain safe.
Omaha Steaks Ground Beef: Always Superior, Always the Safest
At Omaha Steaks we are proud to provide you with the finest quality, safe and wholesome food. Throughout our 90-year history, we have always taken food safety very seriously. Our top priority is ensuring the integrity of our products and the trust of our customers. That's why we use an innovative food safety technology called irradiation on all our ground beef.
Q & A about Irradiation
What are the benefits to my family and me?
Irradiation has been tested and used for decades to destroy harmful bacteria that can cause illness in food. The process that Omaha Steaks has chosen to use utilizes electromagnetic energy, which in seconds kills harmful bacteria. The result is food that is safer for you.
What is the process of irradiation and how does it work?
The process of irradiation enhances the safety of food products, destroying most bacteria that may be present such as E.coli, Salmonella and Listeria. E.coli is commonly found in ground beef prior to cooking. With irradiation you can buy ground beef with the same confidence you have when you buy pasteurized milk.
Does Irradiation make food radioactive?
No. Irradiated ground beef is wholesome and absolutely safe.
Why did Omaha Steaks decide to offer irradiated ground beef?
After extensive testing, the USDA approved irradiation for meats in February 2000. Omaha Steaks has a tradition of bringing quality, great taste, convenience and the latest in food technology to our customers. When irradiation for ground beef with all its benefits became available, Omaha Steaks immediately began researching the process. As soon as we were convinced of its benefits to our customers we put this process into operation. In this way, Omaha Steaks has continued its commitment to superior quality and safety.
Why is Omaha Steaks using irradiation on Ground Beef only?
Steaks and roasts are solid pieces of meat that bacteria cannot permeate. Any bacteria that may exist on the surface of the meat is eliminated as soon as the product is heated. Unlike solid cuts of meat, the potential exists that surface bacteria may have been mixed within ground beef.
How can I tell if my ground beef has been irradiated?
Ground beef that has been irradiated is required by law to be marked with the international symbol for irradiation called a Radura, and labeled with the words "treated by irradiation."
Do I handle Omaha Steak's ground beef any differently than ground beef that have not been irradiated?
You should handle our ground beef the same way you would handle any perishable food item. Irradiating food typically can eliminate most harmful bacteria from food however, the technology is not meant to replace current food safety practices-it's meant to supplement them. You should always use safe handling practices when preparing any foods, including our irradiated ground beef. It is important that all consumers properly handle foods at home in order to avoid contaminating food with germs from other sources.
Is the irradiation process safe?
Absolutely. In fact, irradiation has been endorsed by many respected national and international organizations. Following are some of the health and government organizations who support irradiation:
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
- U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)
- U.S. Public Health Service
- Institute of Food Technologists
- American Medical Association
- World Health Organization
- American Dietetic Association
- Mayo Clinic
Who could I contact if I had further questions or comments?
If you have further questions or comments we'd love to hear from you. Please contact us on our toll free, food safety line 1-877-789-7117. Or if you would prefer, you can contact the Food Safety Technology Council (FSTC) a resource created by leading food safety experts to help inform the public. They can be reached at at www.foodsafetycouncil.com.
Omaha Steaks President Bruce Simon's response to the New York Times (10/4/09) article on ground beef safety
October 8, 2009
In your Sunday, October 4 edition, you reported on food safety issues within the ground beef industry, focusing primarily on the issue of e-coli 0157:H7, and the tragedy of food borne illnesses. There is no doubt these illnesses need to be prevented.
Based on your article however, your readers might be scared into thinking that they can never again enjoy a big, juicy hamburger. Nothing could be further from the truth. Safe ground beef options do exist, and there are companies like my own (Omaha Steaks) whose food safety practices can provide consumers peace of mind when dining on ground beef.
While some manufacturers use a variety of inexpensive raw materials in order to reduce their costs, others like Omaha Steaks use only solid muscle raw materials and our own steak trimmings to produce the most wholesome ground beef products available anywhere. In our case, all of our raw material and the trim we produce are products of the United States and are subjected to microbiological testing prior to and after manufacturing using the Qualicon BAX Q7 system, the same system used by the USDA to detect e-coli and other pathogens.
While we have the utmost confidence that our food safety procedures and extensive precautionary testing are highly effective, we know the potentially hazardous nature of e-coli 0157:H7, and for that reason we add the final step of irradiating every pound of ground beef that we sell.
Irradiation is a tried and true technology endorsed by the World Health Organization, and approved by the USDA for use with ground beef. By using low doses of irradiation we can attack harmful bacteria at the DNA level, destroying any potential pathogen and allowing us to offer our ground beef products with complete confidence. We have been successfully irradiating our ground beef products since 2000, and have enjoyed widespread acceptance from our customers and gratifying feedback from the medical and scientific communities.
At Omaha Steaks, we firmly believe our ground beef is among the safest and most delicious anyone can buy. We also embrace the USDA's Safe Food Handling Guidelines, which among other things advise cooking ground beef to 160° F.
Safe ground beef is available and you would do your readers a favor by letting them know about the companies that make it and the stores that sell it.
Bruce A. Simon CEO
Product Safe Handling Instructions
Proper procedures when handling food will ensure the enjoyment of your products from Omaha Steaks. Here are some things to keep in mind: Always thaw your products in the refrigerator or one of the other recommended methods explained under thawing your product. Never thaw products at room temperature. Food products will not last indefinitely in the freezer or refrigerator. Always plan to use your foods from Omaha Steaks in a reasonable amount of time. Do not use the same cutting board or platter for raw meats and cooked meats. Wash hands, utensils, cutting boards and counters that contact raw food. Cook meats to the proper degree of doneness. Ground meat items need to be cooked to the 160 degree F internal temperature. Do not allow cooked meals to stand at room temperature. Always refrigerate leftovers immediately.
This product was prepared from inspected and passed meat and/or poultry. Some food products may contain bacteria that could cause illness if the product is mishandled or cooked improperly. For your protection, follow these safe handling procedures.
Keep refrigerated or frozen. Thaw in refrigerator or microwave.
Keep raw meat and poultry separate from other foods. Wash working surfaces (including cutting boards), utensils, and hands after touching raw meat or poultry
Keep hot foods hot. Refrigerate leftovers immediately or discard
Sample of the USDA Safe Handling Instructions found on every Omaha Steaks product box.
For best results, thaw all meat in the refrigerator. Remove meat from the box and place in a single layer on a tray. Always leave the wrapper on while thawing. Good results can also be obtained in less time by thawing steaks in cold water. Following is a timetable for defrosting meats in the refrigerator
||Time in Refrigerator to Defrost
(36 to 40 degrees F)
||4 to 7 hours per pound
||3 to 5 hours per pound
||12 to 14 hours
||1 day per 4 to 5 pounds
||1 day per 1 to 2 pounds
FIRST, keep your freezer as cold as possible. Even a small increase in temperature can shorten the storage life of all frozen foods. SECOND, it is best to leave your steaks in their box to protect quality and freshness. If you do not have room for this, it's OK to remove your steaks from the box and store them in their vacuum package.
We always recommend that a thermometer be used when testing for doneness. It is a quick simple way to test that your product is properly cooked.
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