Monday, October 5, 2009

“How is food safety not the ultimate issue?”

I would be remiss if I didn't highlight an article written for Sunday's New York Times discussing the piss poor regulation of America's beef industry and it's effects on one woman who, after eating a tainted e.coli burger, is now paralyzed from the waist down. From what this article professes, it's as if you are practically taking your life in your hands if you want to eat ground beef in this country (unless you know the person who is raising the cows). Furthermore, even if you aren't eating an e.coli sandwich, you certainly aren't getting the "chef's choice". From the Times:
The frozen hamburgers...which were made by the food giant Cargill, were labeled “American Chef’s Selection Angus Beef Patties.” Yet confidential grinding logs and other Cargill records show that the hamburgers were made from a mix of slaughterhouse trimmings and a mash-like product derived from scraps that were ground together at a plant in Wisconsin. The ingredients came from slaughterhouses in Nebraska, Texas and Uruguay, and from a South Dakota company that processes fatty trimmings and treats them with ammonia to kill bacteria.
Mmmmm...yummy! Nothing like fatty trimmings flavored with ammonia. I wonder what Chef is selecting these anyway? Chef Mengele? Anyway, what's even more galling is that these companies, the producers, the grinders, and so on, seemingly have no regulation. And what little regulation there is has no teeth. Read on:
“The meat industry treats much of its practices and the ingredients in ground beef as trade secrets. While the Department of Agriculture has inspectors posted in plants and has access to production records, it also guards those secrets. Federal records released by the department through the Freedom of Information Act blacked out details of Cargill’s grinding operation that could be learned only through copies of the documents obtained from other sources. Those documents illustrate the restrained approach to enforcement by a department whose missions include ensuring meat safety and promoting agriculture markets...In August 2008, the U.S.D.A. issued a draft guideline again urging, but not ordering, processors to test ingredients before grinding. “Optimally, every production lot should be sampled and tested before leaving the supplier and again before use at the receiver,” the draft guideline said. But the department received critical comments on the guideline, which has not been made official. Industry officials said that the cost of testing could unfairly burden small processors and that slaughterhouses already test. In an October 2008 letter to the department, the American Association of Meat Processors said the proposed guideline departed from U.S.D.A.’s strategy of allowing companies to devise their own safety programs, “thus returning to more of the agency’s ‘command and control’ mind-set.”
Urging, but not ordering. What a relief. Read on if you can:
Unwritten agreements between some companies appear to stand in the way of ingredient testing. Many big slaughterhouses will sell only to grinders who agree not to test their shipments for E. coli, according to officials at two large grinding companies. Slaughterhouses fear that one grinder’s discovery of E. coli will set off a recall of ingredients they sold to others...“The food safety officer at American Foodservice, which grinds 365 million pounds of hamburger a year, said it stopped testing trimmings a decade ago because of resistance from slaughterhouses. “They would not sell to us,” said Timothy P. Biela, the officer. “If I test and it’s positive, I put them in a regulatory situation. One, I have to tell the government, and two, the government will trace it back to them. So we don’t do that.”
So there you have it folks. Unreal. This is the food that we feed our children. Did I mention that the young lady who is now paralyzed from the waist down was a children's dance instructor? Nice. I have a good idea people. Go buy some pastured meat from a local producer. Sure, it may be five dollars a pound but take an Economics lesson. YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR.

1 comment:

  1. OMG. I'm disgusted. Would you agree that people who treat food for human consumption with amonia to kill bacteria should be considered terrorists? Just saying :)



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