It would be impossible not to be aware of the huge beef recall recently of about 1800 products involving XL foods throughout Canada and USA. What have we learned? A major positive outcome of the media coverage is a heightened awareness of what we are eating and of course that no one evidently has died from E coli poisoning. This is not a political, but a food health article with suggestions on how to be more aware of what we are eating which bears repeating simply because of the potential harm from this type of food poisoning.
E Coli Food Poisoning
E Coli occurs in many foods often in hamburger meat, and in fresh vegetables with major contamination from soiled equipment, unclean water, etc. The most recent large outbreak of fatal food poisoning was from sprouts in Europe where hundreds of people became ill and many died. The source of contamination was from a water source used in the processing, growing of the sprouts.
So you feed corn to cattle and E. coli,
which is a very common bug, evolves,
a certain mutation occurs
and a strain called the "E. coli 0157:h7"
appears on the world stage
Michael Pollan : “Food Inc” dialogue
Food Preparation especially raw meat
It pays to be vigilant in your food cleanliness and here are some “Simple Simon Suggestions” on food purchasing and preparation:
- Know where your food comes from and how it was grown, prepared, how old it is, etc.
- Try to grow some of your own vegetables especially leafy greens, bean sprouts, etc.
- Buy local, so that produce does not have to be shipped long distances which may help in the spread of bacterial outbreaks
- Defrost food in refrigerator
- Sanitation is important from ground to plate which includes washing your hands often
- Always wash your food before eating
- Do not prepare food especially meat products which have gone past its “use by” date
- Ensure meat especially chicken and mince meat is kept refrigerated and then cooked well
- Practising good food handling and personal hygiene practices are of utmost importance as contaminated food does not necessarily have an odour and may not taste tainted
The animals (cattle) stand ankle deep in their manure all day long.
So if one cow has it (E coli), the other cows will get it.
When they get to the slaughterhouse,their hides are caked with manure.
And if the slaughterhouse is slaughtering 400 animals an hour,
how do you keep that manure from getting onto those carcasses?
And that's how the manure gets in the meat.
And now this thing that wasn't in the world
is in the food system.
Michael Pollan : “Food Inc” dialogue
Beef Recall in Canada
There are many more diseases which thousands die from each year; such as 75,700 people will die from cancer in 2012 in Canada. Statistics from Canadian Cancer Society. Food poisoning none the less is extremely unpleasant and often affects tens of thousands of people. The new HUS /E coli strain does not respond to antibiotics and can be deadly to the young and aged.The XL foods meat recall has definitely increased the Public's awareness that this can and does happen in Canada.
In the short term 2,000 laid off workers jobs were restored and the plant is now managed by a Brazilian company who may buy XL. Cleanliness (washing hands, clothes, footwear) and (water) sanitation were cited as the reasons for the E coli outbreak and the US Food Safety and Inspection agency are issuing an audit of their findings "at a later date". It will be interesting to see what, in the grand scheme of things - has really changed to prevent a similar recall happening again?
- For the young, aged and those with compromised immune systems E coli poisoning can be fatal.
- As stated before “It is almost impossible to avoid food contamination 100% of the time”
- Here are the World Health Organizations Five Keys to Safer Food to stop micro-organisms from making you and other people sick :
- Keep clean
- Separate raw and cooked
- Cook thoroughly
- Keep food at safe temperatures, and
- Use safe water and raw materials
There is this deliberate veil,
this curtain, that's dropped between us
and where our food is coming from.
Eric Schlosser: “Food Inc” dialogue
Links & References
- The World Health Organisation identified the bacterium as a “completely new” mutant strain which was more toxic and infectious than usual varieties. It is resistant to antibiotics and has an eight-day incubation period . Causes often fatal complication of HUS (haemolytic-uraemic syndrome)
- E coli O157:H7, is a type of HUS mainly connected with cattle – see earlier link
- It is estimated that E. coli O157:H7 causes greater than 73,000 cases of illness and 61 deaths in humans each year in the United States.
- Water contamination from mass feed lots - Natural Resources Defence Council
- Thoroughly cooking meat can destroy E coli
- Canadian Food Inspection on XL Food beef recall
- Link to Caramel and Parsley article on More Food Recalls - just the facts
- Link to Caramel and Parsley article on Health Hazards in our Everyday Food
- Food Inc movie complete dialogue -
- Public Health statement update November 14, 2012 - another case of E Coli food poisoning from XL foods beef. Plus lists of recalled food stores, safety and other information
- Note: Freezing beef (ground or otherwise) does not "kill" E Coli bacteria