Really? More tainted food? The recent recall has now been expanded to 380,000 pounds of E. coli-tainted beef. JBS Swift Beef Company, located in Colorado, is the likely company to blame for this mess.
After 9/11, I thought terrorists would use chemical weapons in our food system as a way of attacking the U.S. I now realize that’s a silly fear- there’s simply no room for the terrorists. The big food conglomerates are doing a fantastic job all by themselves to poison our food supply.
I also find it funny that in order to identify tainted beef for this recall, you must look for the establishment number “EST. 969,” inside the USDA mark of inspection on your package of beef. Mark of inspection?!? Shouldn’t that mark indicate that the beef is safe? And that it was actually inspected?
This inspected meat is now part of what the USDA deems a “Class I Recall Health Risk”. This means:
This is a health hazard situation where there is a reasonable probability that the use of the product will cause serious, adverse health consequences or death.
JBS claims to be on the forefront of food safety practices to reduce microorganisms in their products. JBS writes on their website that they use their “Multiple Hurdle Intervention Program” to keep meat safe. They describe the program as, “A comprehensive six-step carcass pasteurization process developed to fight pathogens including E. coli 0157:H7, Salmonella, Listeria and Campylobacter.” Here are the six steps:
1. Hide Washing
2. Steam Vacuuming
3. Pre-Wash/Organic Acid Rinse
4. Double Thermal Pasteurization
5. Thermal Organic Rinse
6. Cold Carcass Sanitizer
Weird… I could have sworn that when I moved out of my last apartment, I paid Stanley Steemer to do the same exact process on my tacky shag carpet… except for that “cold carcass sanitizer” step… ewww.
I hate to break it to JBS, but the “Multiple Hurdle Intervention Program” is a joke. Seriously, if the program was any good, should 380,000 pounds of tainted beef sail through all six steps? Of course, some of the contamination could have occurred through later manufacturing by other companies who purchased the JBS beef. But, the majority of the evidence is pointing directly at the Colorado beef factory.
Here’s my suggestion to JBS: Ditch the six steps. Seriously, the steps are a pathetic attempt at trying to cover the real issue. The real issue is that these huge beef companies feed, raise and slaughter cattle incorrectly.
Here is 1 step (instead of 6) that JBS can implement to make another E. coli threat virtually non-existent:
1. Feed cattle what they’re supposed to eat (and let them graze happily to do so).
Nearly all of the meat eaten in the U.S. comes from grain-fed cattle. Cattle grow fast on grain; it’s economical and makes the meat more tender and fatty. But, grain increases the acid level of the animal’s colon which enables the growth of acid-resistant bacteria (like a dangerous strain of E. coli). The E. coli then gets transferred through fecal matter.
Recent studies have clearly found that if an animal is fed hay and fresh grass (even if only for the last 5 days of life before slaughter), the E. coli levels in the animal fall dramatically. Further, the few bacteria that are left are not acid-resistant and will likely be killed by human stomach acid if ingested.
These companies are aware of this research; but, they choose to disregard it and play a simple numbers game. Big beef companies realize that if they go the grass-fed route, they can’t raise as many cattle. They also will have to wait longer to slaughter the animal. These extra costs are evaluated against the losses that could occur because of a recall and possible lawsuits from a tainted product.
It’s becoming more obvious where the numbers are falling. These companies have chosen to risk the health of their customers so that they can make some extra bucks.
But, I’m not totally cynical and overly harsh on these companies. In fact, I want to help JBS clean up their act. You can even join with me! Here’s how:
1. Reduce meat consumption. Americans eat too much meat as it is. Diets high in meat have been associated with increased risk for certain cancers, heart disease and obesity.
2. Buy meat from a local farmer who offers grass-fed, humanely raised and slaughtered meat. This meat will have more nutrients and will be less likely to be contaminated.
3. Don’t order meat entrees from a fast food joint. Fast food restaurants are the biggest customers of these big meat companies. And then…
4. Write a letter to a fast food company saying that you refuse to eat their meat products until they start purchasing from ethical companies that produce healthy meat.
5. Eat a veggie burger on the 4th of July!
I’ll post my fave veggie burgers tomorrow…