In The New York Times this weekend, reporter Michael Moss detailed the chilling story
of a Minnesota family's bout with E. coli, one that would make a vegetarian out of anyone. This is why, unless you are grinding your own meat or having a butcher you trust grind whole muscle, you should probably give up eating hamburgers. Makes you wonder what the meat sourcing is for the Twin Cities premium burger joints. I think many of them would proudly tell you the name of their purveyor, and I bet their purveyor would NEVER cop to their alphabet soup of suppliers. If I owned a burger joint, I would post a huge sign telling all my customers exactly where I get my beef from, all the way back to the farm, and anyone who can’t do that should close their doors.
What’s the most important responsibility of a restaurant? The public health of course. They are stewards of the public, who trust that restaurants serve wholesome foods. I also think we all need to call on the Mn Dept of Health and the SecState’s office to pursue investigations into the inspection systems of the meat supply companies in Minnesota and change our laws so that our food system can regain some semblance of health and wellness. But that will never happen, because the largest mass of consumers in the world is addicted to cheap unhealthy food. Why do you think food at fast food joints is so cheap? Why do you think a pound of grass-fed, farm-raised beef at the farmers market is four times the price of the five pound tube of fatty gristle in the freezer at the big box store? Addiction, that’s why.
Here is just a small snippet of what you should read and re-read at the link above and email to all your friends. I URGE you to read the whole article, its important. Moss, writes:
eating ground beef is still a gamble. Neither the system meant to make the meat safe, nor the meat itself, is what consumers have been led to believe.
Ground beef is usually not simply a chunk of meat run through a grinder. Instead, records and interviews show, a single portion of hamburger meat is often an amalgam of various grades of meat from different parts of cows and even from different slaughterhouses. These cuts of meat are particularly vulnerable to E. coli contamination, food experts and officials say. Despite this, there is no federal requirement for grinders to test their ingredients for the pathogen.
The frozen hamburgers that the Smiths [a Minnesota woman at the heart of the investigation who has been left paralyzed by E. coli poisoning] ate, 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 mashlike 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.
Using a combination of sources—a practice followed by most large producers of fresh and packaged hamburger—allowed Cargill to spend about 25 percent less than it would have for cuts of whole meat.
Those low-grade ingredients are cut from areas of the cow that are more likely to have had contact with feces, which carries E. coli, industry research shows. Yet Cargill, like most meat companies, relies on its suppliers to check for the bacteria and does its own testing only after the ingredients are ground together. The United States Department of Agriculture, which allows grinders to devise their own safety plans, has encouraged them to test ingredients first as a way of increasing the chance of finding contamination.
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.
“Ground beef is not a completely safe product,” said Dr. Jeffrey Bender, a food safety expert at the University of Minnesota who helped develop systems for tracing E. coli contamination. He said that while outbreaks had been on the decline, "unfortunately it looks like we are going a bit in the opposite direction."