FAQs / Q&A

Your Safety – Frequently Asked Questions

Q. How can I be sure that the ground beef I buy is safe?

A. BPI has been recognized by the USDA, consumer safety groups, and food protection organizations for our outstanding efforts to advance food safety. Food products that are made from BPI lean beef products have undergone the most rigorous and comprehensive testing and been processed under the toughest quality control systems in the industry today.

Q. What is E. coli and how does it get into meat?

A. E. coli bacteria are naturally occurring in the environment and we are exposed to them in a variety of ways each day. All animals and humans have E. coli in the digestive tracts of their bodies. E. coli can also be found in unpasteurized milk and apple cider, raw vegetables and other types of food. On rare occasions, harmful forms of E. coli, such as E. coli O157:H7 can get into meat as it is being processed. At BPI we employ the most rigorous finished product sampling and testing program in the industry to check for the presence of E. coli O157:H7. BPI's products are certified as testing negative for that pathogen prior to being prepared for shipping.

Q. What is ammonium hydroxide?

A. Ammonium hydroxide is the combination of ammonia and water. It is naturally present in all proteins, including beef. Ammonia has many benefits and uses in food production. For more information about ammonia and food click here.

Q. Does ammonia occur naturally?

A. Yes. The human body naturally produces about 4,200 milligrams of ammonia every day.

Q. How is ammonia and/or ammonium hydroxide used in foods?

A. It's quite common to find foods processed using ammonia or ammonium hydroxide. It is used in production of foods like grains, baked goods, condiments, pancakes, chocolates, caramels, puddings and cheeses. Ammonia in its various forms is useful for a wide variety of food processing purposes, including a leavening agent in baking, caramel production, drinking water, and as an antibacterial agent. For a list of additional substances suitable for addition to foods, see USDA Directive 7,120.1.

Q. Why is ammonia added to meat?

A. Due to its antimicrobial benefits, BPI increases the naturally occurring levels of ammonium hydroxide in beef by a slight amount to assist in eliminating any harmful bacteria – such as E. coli – that could potentially be present. BPI's use of ammonium hydroxide has been approved by the Food & Drug Administration, United States Department of Agriculture and was implemented only after review with several of the most prominent consumer safety groups in the United States.

Q. Is this the only way you can get rid of E. coli?

A. No. We believe our efforts are the most effective way to ensure fresh meats are free of harmful bacteria prior to cooking. Ammonium Hydroxide is naturally occurring in meat and one of the few processing aids that is natural. Consumers can play an important role in reducing their risk from such bacteria by always following safe food handling practices and properly cooking food. While consumers should follow those practices, it is our responsibility to make the food as safe as we know how. By combining our efforts with those of other conscientious producers and consumers, we strive to ensure the availability of safe, and nutritious foods.

Q. What about other contaminants I've heard about - Listeria, Salmonella, etc.? Can ammonium hydroxide help kill them?

A. Yes. Our food safety efforts are specifically targeted at and most effective with gram negative bacteria like E. coli O157:H7 and Salmonella. We continue our research and development efforts and have had significant success in reducing exposure to gram positive bacteria like Listeria.

Q. I want my food to be "natural." Is this just another chemical in my food?

A. Ammonia and ammonium hydroxide are naturally occurring in all proteins. We have included information about its uses and benefits for your convenience.