The New York Times published a disturbing but enlightening article on Sunday, concerning an individual made profoundly ill by E. coli bacteria in her hamburger.  http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/04/health/04meat.html?_r=1&hpw

Candidly, the story made this author hesitant to ever eat a hamburger again. The composition of the hamburger patty is amazing. Ingredients came from Uruguay, Nebraska, Texas and South Dakota. The "beef" is mostly fat and trimmings from the carcasses outer areas.

The Nebraska meat was fatty edges added to Texas meat from bulls and cows that are too elderly to be fattened in feedlots. The comforting guarantee of the Texas operation, "there is no guarantee of pathogen-free raw material".
To this was added Uruguayan trimmings and South Dakotan fatty trimmings or "pieces of fat derived from the normal breakdown of beef carcass."

This last delicious ingredient is warmed, with the fat being taken out in a centrifuge and the remainder being treated with ammonium. Yum yum.

Surely, the maufacturer-distributor, Cargill, which made more than 116 billion dollars in revenue last year, has an exacting safety process before its grinds this appalling combination of ingredients, right? Absolutely, metal detector wielding employees make sure that no nails or metal hooks go in, which could damage the grinders.

As for screening for E. Coli, NO! This seems unbelievable, given the fifteen-year U.S. ban on selling E. Coli-tainted meat. You may recall that much of the public fear and government action stems from an E. Coli outbreak at Jack-In-The-Box restaurants ,which killed four children in 1994.

In the aftermath of the Cargill beef problem, U.S.D.A. inspectors undertook checks at 224 meat plants and found serious problems at 55. At Cargill, the U.S.D.A. found that  they had not bothered to follow their own safety program, resulting in serious illness for hundreds of consumers.
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