Friday, February 26, 2010

Chapter 9: What's in the Meat

Chapter 19
Compared with several decades ago, how common are food-related illnesses today? Well, to start about 200 thousand people are sickened by a foodborne disease! Nine hundred are hospitalized and a whopping 14 die. No, 200 thousand people don't die from food related illnesses in a year, nor do they die in a month, but in a single day. In one day: yesterday, today, next Friday; about 200 thousand people die because of what they put in their mouth. Scary? I think so! You never know what goes into your body when you consume something, even if it's deadly.

The centralization of food production influenced the spread of food-related illnesses because several meat is packaged from one central company. This can potentially sicken millions of people. "Today a cluster of illnesses in one small town may stem from bad potato salad at a school barbecue--or it may be the first sign of an outbreak that extends statewide, nationwide, or even overseas" (page 195) That simple statement from the book describes perfectly how worried we should be with our new system of food production. So what if it's quick and easy! It's an every day item that could potentially be lethal. It could potentially kill millions of people.

The U.S. government has no authority to demand a recall of tainted meat. "Today the U.S. government can demand the nationwide recall of defective softball bats, sneakers, stuffed animals, and foam-rubber toy cows. But it cannot order a meatpacking company to remove contaminated, potentially lethal ground beef from fast food kitchens and supermarket shelves" (page 196) It's absolutely ridiculous that something as killer as tainted meat cannot be recalled by the government. Murderers go to jail, I think that tainted meat should be recalled, or put in their "jail" (garbage!) too!

The majority of the microbes in meat are spread by fecal material. In fact, over 78% of the ground beef contained the manure.

The first national hamburger chain, White Castle, changed the image of the hamburger by placing their grills in direct view of customers, claimed that fresh ground beef was delivered twice a day, chose a name with connotations of purity, and even sponsored an experiment at the University of Minnesota. White Castle's success helped to popularize hamburgers, and it attracted a broad range of people.

The effects of E. coli O157:H7 on the human body involve the mutated bacterium taking over the digestive system. E. coli O157:H7 effects several people. Some, however, do not become ill. People who do become sick suffer mild diarrhea. Abdominal cramps lead to this watery and bloody diarrhea. Vomiting and a low-grade fever are sometimes effects also. When the Shiga toxins enter the bloodstream, only 4% of reported E. coli O157:H7 cases, hemolytic uremic syndrome takes place. This could possibly lead to kidney failure, anemia, internal bleeding, and the destruction of vital organs, which causes 5% of children infected by it to die.

Some ways people are infected with E. coli O157:H7 are by drinking or swimming in contaminated water, crawling on a contaminated carpet, and person-to-person transmissions among family members, at day cares, and at senior centers. However the most common is from consuming undercooked meat.

Things that are fed to cattle that may facilitate the spread of pathogens range from manure to remains. About 75% of cattle in the USA were fed the remains of dead sheep, cattle, cats, and dogs routinely. This continued until August of 1997. This led to the spread of "mad cow disease" or spongiform encephalopathy. Cows are designed to eat grass, not to consume other animals. Sawdust and old newspapers used as littler are also fed to cattle. Chicken manure is fed to these animals as well, about 3 million pounds in 1994!

The risk of contamination for ground beef compared to whole cuts of beef compares because about one-quarter of the nation's ground beef (made from worn-out dairy cattle) is made from animals most likely to be diseased. Ground beef is a huge admixture of animals and has crucially spread E. coli O157:H7. When eating a single fast food hamburger, you could be consuming meat from dozens or even hundreds of different cattle.

The author is concerned about the use of older dairy cattle to make ground beef because they are worn-out and more likely to have disease. Dairy cattle are slaughtered at the age of four, when they could live for forty years.

The meatpacking industry generally responded to health concerns about the nation's beef in a chill way. They act like it's not big deal when someone reported a problem, and denied it existed. The motives of its critics fought and fought, trying to avoid any outbreaks of food poisoning.

The Streamlined Inspection System is a program designed to reduce the presence of federal inspectors in the nation's slaughterhouses. The Reagan administration believed it would help the USDA shrink its budget. Basically, this system gave the meatpacking industry the authority to inspect its own meat. Streamlined Inspection System for Cattle concluded, in 1992, that the beef produced under the program was no dirtier than beef produced at slaughterhouses fully staffed by federal inspectors. However, federal inspectors in Greenly, Colorado stated that the meat produced under this system had "never been filthier." The poorly trained company inspectors would let meat with fecal material, hair, insects, metal shavings, urine, and vomit be shipped. The Streamlined Inspection System for Cattle was discontinued in 1993.

The Jack In The Box restaurant chain responded to the outbreak of salmonella by trying to shift the blame somewhere else. Children would be hospitalized after eating Jack in the Box hamburgers. The restaurant chain struggled to recover from the bad publicity due to the outbreak. Every Jack in the Box manager attended a food safety course, and now buys all of its ground beef from two companies.

The meat selected for consumption in public schools is the lowest priced meat, most likely to be contaminated with pathogens. It's also the most likely to contain pieces of spinal cord, bone, and gristle left behind. Cattle that were already dead before arriving at the plant were processed routinely. Also, the Cattle King facilities were infested with rats and cockroaches. Right near our home in Winter Park, E. coli O157:H7 was found in Bauer Meat's processing plant being served to children. In Finely, Washington, Eleven children had eaten undercooked beef tacos at their school, and one other was infected from other students.

What you learn about the things you eat can really open your eyes. I never buy my lunch, but after reading about what they put in the cafeteria for children, I worry about my three younger siblings. I love meat! But after reading this chapter and analyzing the facts stated in it, I'm going to think twice next time a juicy hamburger is put in front of me.

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