Do You Really Want to Eat That?

Did you know up to 38 percent of all American cattle have E. coli 0157:H7 at the time of slaughter?

Hmm.

I’m swimming in information from the past year of food research. My latest story for The Faster Times presents a few health and safety factoids about burgers, pesticides, butter wrappers, canned tomatoes, microwave popcorn, sugar and salt. Curious? Read the story here.

7 thoughts on “Do You Really Want to Eat That?

  1. Hi Karen! Hope you are well. Interesting article. The e-coli in question is a result of corn feeding, correct? I believe grass-fed beef does not have the same risk? Also, how does turkey and chicken compare?

  2. Shellie, that’s a very interesting and important question. I didn’t address it specifically in the article because Morris refrained from drawing too many conclusions about corn-fed cattle and E. coli. While he said there is *some* evidence diet *could* affect E. coli rates at slaughter, by far the bigger correlation is with factory-farm feed lots (where, of course, cattle eat grain). Further, certain feed lots and even individual cows seem to be “hot spots” for E. coli. Still, a number of articles have pointed to a direct link between corn-fed cattle and E. coli (http://bit.ly/keJews).

    BTW, E. coli is popping up in new places all the time. In recent outbreaks, the disease has spread not only through ground beef but water, salads, apple cider, roast beef, venison, lettuce, Gouda cheese and hazelnuts.

    Jonathan Safran Foer’s book, Eating Animals, is stuffed with all sorts of unappetizing info on poultry. He writes that 39 percent to 75 percent of factory-farmed chicken meat has E. coli by the time it reaches the supermarket, about 8 percent of birds become infected with salmonella and up to 90 percent become infected with campylobacter (a disease that also can spread through wild birds, which led to an outbreak in Alaskan peas a while back).

    Turkeys are particularly susceptible to disease. I’ll conclude with a quote from Foer: “Today’s turkeys are natural insectivores fed a grossly unnatural diet, which can include ‘meat, sawdust, leather tannery by-products’ and other things…. Given their vulnerability to disease, turkeys are perhaps the worst fit of any animal for the factory model. So they are given more antibiotics than any other farmed animals.”

  3. Hi Karen, great article. I was very intrigued by the ‘universal’ craving for salt.
    I was wondering if you have any ideas of how these data compare to Europe. I have the impression we don’t have that many E.coli outbreaks, although our meat production system gave rise to several health scares.
    I’m also wondering about the amount of sugar in children diets: the last time I visited Southern Italy I was impressed by the amount of overweight kids there.

  4. Caffettiera,
    I don’t have a lot of specific info on E. coli in Europe, but it is a problem there (as it is in most developed countries). I did come across a few articles/sites that might be useful:
    http://www.thecattlesite.com/articles/2211/harmonising-ecoli-monitoring-across-europe
    http://www.ndm1bacteria.com/escherichia-coli-esbl-infection-occurrence-in-europe-11
    http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/ireland/2010/0129/1224263355598.html
    On salt – the data show that people pretty much everywhere consume about the same amount of salt unless it is scarce. Researchers don’t exactly know why that is. They also don’t have much info on salt consumption throughout human history, although apparently one study suggested that salt consumption in China 300 BC was precisely the same as it is today – fascinating.
    Definitely there is a trend toward more “Westernized” diets around the world, and in my observations I’ve also seen a large increase in sugar consumption in recent years (this is particularly true in Thailand). Diabetes rates are skyrocketing on a global scale.

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