Meat is among the top 10 food issues we'll be contending with in 2010, nutritionist Marion Nestle predicts. We certainly can't be careful enough about avoiding foodborne illness through contaminated meat, especially ground beef, a recent investigation by The New York Times makes clear. The newspaper discovered that E. coli and salmonella pathogens have been found dozens of times in Beef Products ground beef, 5.5 million pounds of which were served in U.S. schools last year. The testing was performed by the school lunch program arm of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Beef Products "fatty beef trimmings" are also widely used in burgers for fast food restaurants, including McDonald's and Kroger's. But does the USDA test Beef Products meat that goes to other outlets besides schools? No. The agency accepts the company's self-testing that shows its ammonia treatments are effective in killing bacteria.
A whopping 35 million lbs. of meat was recalled nationwide in 2007, and 7.5 million lbs. in 2008, according to Food Safety News.We've yet to find a total count for beef recalls due to E. coli in 2009, but the website reported there had been 11 recalls totalling 575,000 lbs. of ground beef by mid-October. That, however, was before 545,000 lbs. of contaminated hamburger was recalled for E. Coli in several states in November, although it was sold in September. Even if 2009 recalls total "only" a bit over a million lbs., it's an unappetizing, intolerable and dangerous situation.
What to do to protect the burger lovers in your life? Buy true quality: USDA certified organic, grass-fed or certified humane ground beef. Why? Because these labels guarantee that food can be traced back to the source, that is, the actual farm and cow. This makes for greater accountability and responsibility in the food chain. While any animal product, organic or not, can become contaminated with pathogens, the cleaner diets and more careful handlng of animals raised according to these labels provides a healthy buffer. Plus, they're free of antibiotics and added hormones.
Philosophically, we favor humane animal welfare labels that guarantee the creature had had freedom to move about, clean quarters, fresh air, a vegetarian diet, and was slaughtered with minimal suffering. The most reliably humane labels are certified humane, food alliance ,animal welfare approved. To find grass-fed meat and dairy products in your locale, search the Eat Wild Guide by zip code.
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