What the Heck Is in My Meat Now?

hamburgerWhen E. coli makes its way into the food supply, it's a big deal.

It can cause serious illness and even death, so the USDA -- the agency responsible for ensuring the safety of our nation's meat supply -- takes it very seriously and recalls any meat in which it's found.

Well, some E. coli, anyway.

According to recent alarming reports, beyond the E. coli we all know and fear -- E. coli 0157 -- there are at least SIX other potentially dangerous strains of the bacteria that are NOT regulated.

According to an article on AOL Health, these additional E. coli non-O157 strains are responsible for more than 31,000 sicknesses, almost 300 hospitalizations, and 26 deaths each year, yet they're ignored by the USDA and are likely making their way into your market and onto your dinner table.


Why would the USDA choose to ignore such dangerous contaminants? Pressure from the meat industry? It's too much work to regulate more? Most people don't know about them to complain?

Whatever the reason, it's alarming and infuriating that all this is in our meat!

The good news is that the USDA's new undersecretary for food safety, Dr. Elisabeth Hagen, seems committed to addressing the other strains of E. coli and improving food safety overall.

In recent remarks she spoke of a man she treated for an E. coli O157 infection while she was practicing medicine.

"How this big strong man, who survived D-Day, had raised four children and nine grandchildren, and built his own business from the ground up; how he probably wasn't going to survive this. This happened because he ate contaminated food. Food -- a fundamental necessity of life," Hagen said."I have never felt more helpless than I did in that moment."

"Helpless" is good word for how I feel when I read stories like this and others about the food I buy and prepare for my family. The food I should be able to trust.

Here are some things you should know to do your part to keep your family safe from E. coli at least:

  • Ground beef is the real danger due to the way it's processed. Other cuts like steaks and roasts are generally unaffected.
  • Wash your hands after handling raw meat.
  • Cook meat thoroughly -- to at least 160°F/70˚C. Check with a thermometer; eyeballing it doesn't always work.
  • Use separate cutting boards, knives, and other utensils for other foods once they have touched raw meat.

Did you know about these other dangerous, unregulated strains of E. coli? Does this make you rethink the food you serve to your family?

Image via pointnshoot/Flickr

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