Maya Nishikawa of WCCO reported on the fundraiser for Stephanie Smith who has been on life support since eating a Sam’s Club (Cargill) hamburger in late September. Is it just me or does it simply not seem right that eating a hamburger can put you in a coma. I wonder how much money Sam’s Club and Cargill donated? That is right – not a damn thing. Shame on you Corporate America. Take a look at this picture and ask if this was your daughter, what would you do? The meat industry needs to wake up and get the cow %&#* out of our hamburger. I get to do a tour of the plant where this hamburger was made. It will be interesting to see how spotless they have made it before I show up.
Stephanie’s illness and the illnesses of the children and families I represent in recent hamburger related E. coli outbreaks (Cargill, Topps, Lunds and Byerlys, Fresno Meat Market, Interstate Meat and United Food Group to name a few) keeps me thinking of why does it seem we are seeing an increase in illnesses and recalls in 2007, or as I said the other day – “the uptick?” I found this article by Philip Brasher of the Des Moines Register from March 2000:
About half the cattle at the nation’s feedlots carry the deadly E. coli bacteria in summer, making it at least 10 times more common than previously thought, government research shows….The bacteria, which is most commonly found in ground beef, kills about 60 people each year and sickens an estimated 73,000 more, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention….The occurrence of E. coli in feedlots drops to 1 percent during the winter, but scientists found that 83 percent of the cattle they studied had been exposed to the bacteria at some point. …At least 18 percent of the cattle headed for slaughter at a dozen plants were carrying the bacteria. Two of the plants had no infected cattle, and the average rate for the 12 facilities was 3.56 percent.
I have not seen any more recent numbers to suggest much has changed. I did speak to Mr. Brasher about all of this a few days ago. It will be interesting to see what he digs up.
Perhaps we need another survey of "cattle on the hoof" like was done in 2000. Also, because USDA-FSIS fails to adequately survey and protect our nation’s ground beef supply, perhaps we need a nationwide surveillance program to identify E. coli O157:H7 in ground beef at the retail level – before outbreaks occur. Can you imagine having labs across the country testing meat right out of grocery stores? Now, that might be interesting.