In current news Reuters [1] reports that, "Some 390 tons of ground beef produced by a California meat packer, some of it nearly two years ago, is being recalled for fear of potentially deadly E. coli bacterium tainting." In early December I received an email from a food industry trade organization about another ground beef recall in California. In that case a California firm recalled ground beef products due to a possible Salmonella contamination. In that recall, 22,723 pounds of possibly contaminated ground beef (see below for a description of ground beef) had to be dumped, according to the USDA.

Some information about Salmonella is as follows: Salmonella live in the intestinal tracts of humans and other animals, including birds. Salmonella are usually transmitted to humans by eating foods contaminated with animal feces. Contaminated foods usually look and smell normal. Contaminated foods are often of animal origin, such as beef, poultry, milk, or eggs. Thorough cooking kills Salmonella. Food may also become contaminated by the hands of an infected food handler who did not wash hands with soap after using the bathroom. [2]

Consumption of food contaminated with Salmonella can cause salmonellosis, one of the most common bacterial food borne illnesses. Salmonella infections can be life-threatening, especially to those with weak immune systems, such as infants, the elderly, and persons with HIV infection or undergoing chemotherapy. The most common manifestations of salmonellosis are diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and fever within eight to 72 hours. Additional symptoms may be chills, headache, nausea and vomiting that can last up to seven days. In addition, the particular strain found in this recall, Salmonella Newport, is resistant to many commonly prescribed drugs, which can increase the risk of hospitalization or possible treatment failure in infected individuals.

Interestingly, you never hear of people getting salmonella from tofu, beans, nuts, organic greens or grains: which are all good sources of protein. Although it is technically possible, they would have to be contaminated with animal feces. This is not likely unless they’re contaminated by water run off from nearby factory farms, which, unfortunately, does happen.

Now a little about ground beef. You know, ground beef is the most gross thing. It is all the meat scraps (at least those that don’t go into wieners/hot dogs), put through a huge grinder, and scrunched up into something like a paste. A while ago I posted a You Tube of how meat is turned into something with the consistency of a smoothie and then put in hot dogs. See footnote 3 for the link to that blog post and You Tube video.

The USDA talks about the solution to Salmonella and E coli being how to cook the meat and cleaning your hands before cooking it. Good suggestions, cleanliness is always good, but, how about not grinding up the cows in the first place, or maybe not eating the ground beef? These are truly radical suggestions I know, but both of these options will keep you safe from getting sick from eating contaminated beef.

Thanks for reading.

Love Life! Love animals, don't eat them.

Mark Fergusson