Tag Archives: E-Coli

Don’t blame the lettuce!

Romaine lettuceDon’t blame the lettuce! According to the Food and Drug Administration, the large E. coli outbreak which has just happened, caused by contaminated romaine lettuce, may have been caused by a factory farm.

A factory farm is a farm where the animals are crowded together in large numbers. Conditions are often abusive, and as we’ve seen from shocking videos, sometimes deliberately cruel.

E. coli bacteria live in the environment, animals’ intestines and in fecal matter, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Dangerous strains of E. coli, as well as salmonella and other foodborne pathogens, are derived from animal (and occasionally human) feces, and can end up in the ground water, streams and rivers. “The bacteria in animal waste could make their way into water one of two ways,” explained University of Florida food safety expert Keith Schneider. “Water can run downhill, especially after rain, and make it into an irrigation ditch, or water can seep into an underground aquifer.”

A likely reason for why romaine lettuce is susceptible to E. coli contamination is that the runoff from cattle reaches the irrigation water for fields where romaine lettuce grows, said Benjamin Chapman, an associate professor and a food safety specialist at N.C. State University in Raleigh. In similar outbreaks in the past, contaminated produce was traced back to neighboring livestock operations. In this case, the FDA surmises that the contaminated water was either used to irrigate the lettuce or mixed with pesticides (a common method of dilution) before being sprayed on the plants.

These kinds of outbreaks have been happening again and again. Not all the harm from animal agriculture is done by meat itself. Sometimes it’s right next door!

 

Bacteria Pervasive in Hamburgers

Ground beefThe burger test results are in. Researchers bought enough ground beef to make over 1,800 quarter pounders from markets all over the country. Every single burger, without exception, had potentially disease-causing fecal (yuck!) bacteria in it.

It’s getting really bad out there in the meat world. As if that weren’t bad enough, sixty percent of samples had E- Coli, including the much feared 0157 E-Coli, as well as other toxin-producing bacteria. Several other kinds of bacteria were present as well. For instance, ten percent of samples contained Staph Aureus, bacteria which produces a disease-causing toxin that even the usual cooking won’t destroy.

Even worse, 18% of the burgers had antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Even the sustainably-raised burgers had lesser, but still substantial, amounts. That means that if you get sick from these burgers, when the doctor treats you with one or more kinds of antibiotics to fight them, they won’t work.

Choosing sustainably-raised beef won’t help much. Both conventionally raised or “factory farmed” burgers, and so called sustainably-raised burgers were contaminated with fecal bacteria, although the sustainable beef (such as organic and or grass fed) did have lower, but still considerable, rates of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

The list of reasons behind the bacteria in the burgers is a long one, but it includes unhealthy conditions on the farms, unsavory things in the cow feed such chicken droppings, and even pieces of slaughtered hogs, contamination of the slaughterhouse machinery, inadequate inspection, a too-fast slaughter rate, resulting in stressed workers and inhumane conditions for cows.

Total beef consumption in this country is currently 4.6 billion pounds, and ground beef accounts for half of that. The study was conducted by Consumer Reports, which suggests considering alternate options. We couldn’t agree more. There are so many safer and delicious veggie burgers to try.