The most important thing you can do for your health, the environment, and the innocent animals is to go veggie.
Every day in the US about 200,000 people become sick, 900 are hospitalized and 14 die due to food borne illness. According to the Center for Disease Control, about one quarter of the American population suffers from food poisoning each year. Despite the government's attempts at implementing food safety standards, food borne illness has become an increasingly frequent and widespread problem in the United States.
Just three decades ago, food poisoning occurred mostly in small outbreaks at social events like family reunions, picnics, and parties and was caused by improper food handling. Today we are experiencing a whole new breed of food poisoning; it is now possible for thousands of individuals from all corners of the nation to contract identical food borne illnesses. In 1993 more than 700 people in four different states became sick from E. coli 0157:H7 contaminated Jack in the Box hamburgers. In August of 1997, Hudson Foods, a major hamburger supplier for Burger King, recalled 35 million pounds of ground beef (the largest food recall in the nation's history), as a result of a major E. coli 0157:H7 outbreak. In the past eight years about half of a million Americans have become sick from E. coli 0157:H7.
The drastic rise of food poisoning in America can be largely contributed to the centralization and industrialization of food production. Most of the beef consumed in the U.S. originates in one of thirteen massive packinghouses. While the consolidation of meat-processing plants conveniences the nation's food chains, the sheer size of these "food factories" renders them exceptionally conducive for the spread of disease. In such a processing plant, if a single food animal is infected with a dangerous microorganism it can contaminate thousands of pounds of meat.
In 1996, a nationwide study by the USDA found that 78.6 percent of ground beef contained microbes spread primarily by fecal matter. Many apparently healthy animals carry dangerous pathogens such as E. coli 0157:H7, Campylobacter Jejuni, Cryptosporidium Parvum, Salmonella, etc. Recent studies have found that when such pathogens are ingested by humans, the result may not only be a short lived bout of diarrhea and upset stomach, but possibly long term illnesses like heart disease, inflammatory bowel disease, neurological problems, autoimmune disorders, and kidney damage.
Despite the drastic rise of food poisoning outbreaks across the nation, it is still not a well known fact that today's meat processing plants are much more dangerous than they used to be. The "all American diet" can no longer be eaten without caution because it has begun to take a toll on the lives of its people. The easiest way to avoid these food related dangers is to simply leave such foods out of one's diet. A plant based diet is much healthier, cleaner, safer, and in the end, it can lead to a higher quality of life.
*The information in this article was taken from "Fast Food Nation" by Eric Schlosser.