Yet another sad tale of ground beef contaminated with Ecoli

June 26, 2008

There is a new outbreak of contaminated ground beef in Michigan and Ohio that to date has infected 32 people with a dangerous strain of EColi. Today the UDSA issued an official Class I, High Risk recall. By itself it may be not that big a deal (although if you’re one of the unfortunate people who have contacted Ecoli it is a big deal). The bigger picture is the recurrent problem. A BIG problem! How many times is this going to happen and nothing changes? What are we going to do about it?

The story:

More than half of the 15 Michiganders affected reported purchasing and consuming ground beef from Kroger stores. Ten of the 15 people infected with the bacteria have been hospitalized. Those affected became ill between May 31 and June 8.

The same strain of E. coli 0157 bacteria has also been confirmed in illnesses among Ohio residents. The confirmed Ohio and Michigan cases have been linked both epidemiologically and genetically to this outbreak, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The Ohio Department of Health reports that 10 of 16 E. coli cases there have been genetically linked to cases in Michigan.

Michigan health officials said today that beef products involved in the outbreak are being traced and additional retailers and outlets may be identified.

“Kroger is fully cooperating with state and federal investigators,” said Don Koivisto, director of the Michigan Department of Agriculture, in a prepared statement.

“It’s critical that consumers follow safe food practices to reduce the risk of food borne illness such as cooking your meat thoroughly using a food thermometer to determine proper internal temperature,” Koivisto said.

Symptoms of E. coli bacteria illness include stomach cramps, diarrhea and vomiting. Most people get better within five to seven days. Other infections can be life-threatening.

Why this matters:

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from years of researching food safety issues it’s this, ground beef is bad. It’s so bad that time and time again we are being warned to cook off the Ecoli bacteria that’s swimming around in it. It’s so bad that in 2007 companies voluntarily recalled ground beef products 21 times. The amount of recalled meat was more than 143 million pounds.  That’s meat that was recalled only after we ate it, our kids ate it, and grandma and grandpa ate it. Some of them got really sick.

Why anyone would continue to eat it boggles my mind. But I am about freedom of choice. I understand the warm and fuzzy conections between things like BBQ’s and hamburgers, baseball games and hot dogs. I know what it’s like to be pressed for time and how easy it is to stuff in a Big Mac on the go. I understand. I’ve been there. But it’s time to get real. It’s not working for me and apparently it’s not really working for millions and millions of others whether they know it or not. 

The problem is the system – a system that courts our emotions and feeds our need for speed. Every time we eat a burger that evokes those good feelings we actually believe it is ok. Yet over and over it’s proven to not be ok. We eat more anyway. We blindly trust, we hurriedly look the other way.

Here at FD, we could devote our entire space, time and energy to recalls. There are a lot of them. But it can get depressing and we are not prophets of doom. Personally I love food. Good food. Healthy food. I love growing it, preparing it and eating it. I’m also a realist. I get what’s happening with our food system and it saddens and terrifies me. That’s why this Michigan/Ohio beef thing matters. That’s why you need to know about it. That’s why you need to let others know what’s going on.

What can you do:

Do your own research. A simple Google or Food Democracy search for “ground beef recall” or “factory farm” should arm you with plenty of eye-opening information. Read Omnivore’s Dilemma. Buy local, grass fed beef that is freshly ground. Better yet, become a vegetarian.

See also:

4 Responses to “Yet another sad tale of ground beef contaminated with Ecoli”

  1. Mitch Says:

    I think you mean the USDA announced the recall not the FDA.

  2. annierichardson Says:

    You’re absoutely right. Thanks for bringing it to our attention Mitch. We’ve made the correction.

  3. annierichardson Says:

    Anonymous writes:

    Perhaps I could return the product to KROGER in a plastic ZipLoc bag for a refund AFTER my body “processed” it??

    I ATE the beef I purchased from Kroger at the END of MAY.


  4. […] See related story: Yet another sad tale of ground beef contaminated with EColi […]

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