Hinterland Green

Monday, October 5, 2009

Stephanie Smith Paralyzed After E. coli Poisoning, New York Times Questions Safety Of Ground Beef

I swore off red meat for quite some time for health reasons, but I was appalled to learn that Stephanie Smith, a dance instructor, was the victim of E. coli poisoning. First it seemed as though she had a stomach virus, which later progressed into bloody stool, then her kidneys shut down and seizures rendered her unconscious. According to the New York Times, her convulsions grew so relentless that the doctors put her in a coma for nine weeks. When she emerged, she could no longer walk. The illness had ravaged her nervous system and left her paralyzed. She was found to have a severe form of food-borne illness caused by E. coli, which Minnesota officials traced to the hamburger that her mother had grilled for their Sunday dinner in early fall 2007.

 Stephanie Smith, Paralyzed After E. coli Poisoning (NY Times Photograph)
 I have long been leery of ground meat and poultry. Why? It is usually the amalgam of various grades of meat from different parts of cows, in the case of beef, or poultry. What's shocking is that the ground beef can be comprised of meat from different slaughterhouses, hereby increasing the chances of contamination. To make matters worse, there is no federal requirement for grinders to test their ingredients for the pathogen. This is common practice among most of the large producers of fresh and packaged hamburger. For example, using a combination of sources allowed Cargill to spend about 25 percent less than it would have for cuts of whole meat.

Equally shocking, as industry research shows, is the fact that those low-grade ingredients are cut from areas of the cow that are more likely to have had contact with fecal matter, which carries E. coli. Cargill, like most meat companies, relies on their suppliers to check for the bacteria and reportedly does it own testing after the ingredients are ground together. One would think that the logical course of action would be the test the ingredients before they are combined. The United States Department of Agriculture has encouraged these companies to devise their own safety plans instead of relying on their suppliers.

To read the entire NY Times article, CLICK HERE.
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