Both U.S. senators from Wisconsin are supporting a bill to strengthen the authority of the USDA – authority that was struck down by federal court about four years ago.
The Meat and Poultry Pathogen and Reduction Act stems from a 2001 court case, Supreme Beef v. USDA, in which the beef processor sued the USDA after the government threatened to pull federal inspectors out of the plant, which would essentially shut it down. The Texas-based Supreme Beef Processors Inc. had failed the USDA’s salmonella tests three times in less than a year, but claimed in the suit that by law, the USDA could not shut down the plant. Once a district court ruled in favor of the beef processor, the USDA appealed.
The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the USDA acted outside its regulatory authority, saying that "the performance standard, of itself, cannot serve as a proxy for cross-contamination," with other pathogens, and that "salmonella itself does not render a product ‘injurious to health.’"
According to the FDA, when beef is ground to make hamburger, bacteria that may have been present on the surface of the meat end up inside the meat and are less likely to be killed if the proper temperature is not reached while cooking.
Ground beef should be cooked to at least 160 degrees Fahrenheit. If no thermometer is available to ensure this happens, the FDA recommends that consumers not eat ground beef that is still pink inside.