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    Archive for the ‘E.Coli’ Category

    2011: A Year to Remember (and Forget!)

    It wasn’t until I started compiling stories for this post that I realized just how much had taken place this year on issues of food, agriculture, and nutrition. While by no means a definitive list, I think it covers the most substantial events.

    So, if you’ve been spelunking in Antarctica for the past twelve months — or just want a short trip down memory lane — let’s review 2011, the year where:
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    In The News: Here We Go Again

    ground-beef_350(1)Now, it’s ground beef’s time to be recalled (for, what, the billionth time?)!

    This is starting to resemble a horrifically twisted version of Mad Libs: “(Name of company) is recalling (name of food) after (number) of people experienced (symptoms).”

    Here’s what CNN is reporting:

    “Cargill Meat Solutions Corp. has recalled about 8,500 pounds of ground beef that may be contaminated with E. coli.  The USDA says it believes certain BJ’s Wholesale Club stores in Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York and Virginia received the products.”

    Alas, the truly disturbing tidbit is right here:

    “The recalled ground beef was shipped June 11 to distribution centers, where it was repackaged into consumer-size packages and sold under different retail brand names. The USDA did not identify the brands.”

    Our current food system is essentially a leaky ship with 80 holes.  Instead of drafting plans to build a new one, authorities think plugging two holes at a time is a feasible solution.

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    In The News: Soda’s Newest Enemy? Microbiologists

    reunion soda and juices in DC_sPer CNN, the January issue of International Journal of Food Microbiology reports that “nearly half of the 90 beverages from soda fountain machines in one area in Virginia tested positive for coliform bacteria — which could indicate possible fecal contamination.”

    Something else to skeeve you out: “researchers also detected antibiotic-resistant microbes and E.coli in the soda samples.”

    The microbiological state of most soda fountains — at least the ones in this study — are so horrendous that they fall below the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s drinking-water regulations.

    Don’t place the blame on dirty ice cubes, either.  When those were tested for bacteria, results were negative.

    The issue here, of course, isn’t soda itself, but the consequences that occur when food service employees do not clean and sanitize appropriately.

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    You Ask, I Answer: E.Coli & Spinach

    spinach leavesThe recent articles on E.Coli are waaaaay scary.

    I am more scared about the leafy green vegetable aspect than the risk from eating meat.

    Can I minimize my risk by cooking my spinach instead of eating it raw?  Does that kill the bacteria?

    — Dennise O’Grady
    Bay Head, NJ

    The particular strain of E.coli implicated in all these foodborne illness cases (E.coli 0157:H7) can be killed by cooking.

    More specifically, infected spinach is rendered safe if it is cooked for at least 15 seconds at 160 degrees Fahrenheit or more.

    However, one common mistake many people make is using the same knife they used to cut up infected spinach to chop raw vegetables for a salad.

    In that case, even if the infected spinach is cooked for ten minutes at 300 degrees Fahrehnheit, those raw salad vegetables could very well be contaminated.

    PS: I have read some very inaccurate reports which claim that dunking spinach in ice water for 30 minutes kills E.coli.  It does not!  Also, “veggie washes” do NOT kill E.coli!

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    In The News: Rain, Taxes, Death…. and Contaminated Beef

    It’s time for another round of “ground beef recall“!

    You guessed it — E.Coli 0157:H7 has reared its ugly head once more.

    This, by the way, is the same strand that, back in 1993, caused the death of 4 children who consumed contaminated meat at fast food giant Jack in the Box.

    How do these outbreaks happen?

    It’s quite simply, really. Any healthy-looking cow can carry E.Coli in its intestinal tract.

    Once the animal is slaughtered and its meat is ground up, E. Coli germs intermingle with it and, voila, E.Coli-infested beef is shipped off to your local grocery store.

    To make matters more difficult, E.Coli-infested beef does not look, taste, or smell “funny”.

    This is why cooking beef to an internal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit is crucial (it kills any living organisms).

    Additionally, be sure to use separate cutting boards for meat and vegetables so as to not cross-contaminate your raw salad greens with any bacteria present in raw meat.

    Of course, on a much larger scale, if our food production system was better regulated and not hell-bent on accruing profits while jeopardizing cattle and human health, we wouldn’t be constantly facing these outbreaks.

    Not only are cows in feedlots practically living on top of one another (significantly increasing the spread of disease among a single population), they are also on a completely unnatural corn diet, which appears to increase their chances of contracting E.Coli 0157:H7 (the corn diet makes for a more acid stomach environment, which the E.Coli strain loves).

    I believe the personal is often the political. Our hard-earned dollars are an extremely powerful vote.

    If you choose to eat meat, purchasing local organic grass-fed beef (if within your price range) can help bring some peace of mind to your health and support more natural and sustainable practices.

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    In The News: Deja Vu

    Here we go — another E. Coli recall, this time involving frozen hamburger patties.

    This one spans eight states and puts 165 tons of hamburger meat in the “shady” category.

    Can’t say I’m surprised. Just one mass-produced hamburger patty is made up of several cows’ body parts. And, considering the deplorable conditions of most feedlots, it’s no wonder so many cows get sick and end up in our food supply.

    The best way to ensure the meat you’re buying isn’t tainted? For starters — try to know the source. If you have a local butcher or meat market, head there first.

    Although buying local isn’t practical for everyone and everything, animal meat is so prone to a variety of infections and illnesses that relying on mega factories to provide you with safe food is a risk.

    If possible, buy certified organic meat.

    That reminds me — in the next issue of the Small Bites newsletter (out in late October), I will discuss the benefits of organic food, as well as the myths and false sense of security that often accompanies their purchasing. Stay tuned.

    Back to the topic at hand — the fact that people in Florida are eating meat products produced in New Jersey sets up a tremendous barrier to solving the problem at hand. This unsafe meat has now made its way to 20 percent of the country, making it that much harder to control.

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