The key to safe steak tartare is not to buy ground beef. Instead, buy a tender cut (tenderloin, sirloin, etc.) and tell your butcher you’re planning to make steak tartare so that he can select the freshest meat for you. At home, place the meat on a disinfected surface and chop it with a knife just before serving. Since meat grinders are a haven for germs, chopping with a knife is the best way to avoid introducing and spreading bacteria. You should be aware that there’s still a small risk associated with eating raw meat prepared this way: at the slaughterhouse, the carcass may have come into contact with fecal matter. Grinding, chopping, pounding or larding a piece of meat spreads any surface bacteria throughout the meat, providing ideal conditions for germs to multiply. That’s why ground meat should be cooked thoroughly.
A bacterium called E. Coli O157: H7, sometimes found on beef, veal, lamb and occasionally other red meats such as venison, is the cause of the ailment known as hamburger disease or barbecue syndrome. While most commonly found on meat, the bacterium can also contaminate vegetables, water and unpasteurized milk and apple juice. The germ produces a toxin that causes severe diarrhea, intestinal bleeding and intense abdominal pain. Children, elderly people and anyone with a weakened immune system may experience serious complications. Symptoms appear between two and ten days after eating contaminated meat.