Friday, January 15, 2010

One dead every one hour and 46 minutes!

According to a 2005 post, Foodborne Illness, by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States) there were 37 people hospitalized in the States every hour, with one person dying from food poisoning every one hour and 46 minutes when this report was released. 76,000,000 Americans were being made ill every year from foodborne pathogens.

Those numbers would be unbelievable if they were not from the CDC.

I'm not a vegetarian. I eat meat. I like meat or should I say I used to like meat. I'm having second thoughts. As I continue my investigation of our food supply I am shocked to discover that it is not just meat that can carries pathogens.

Today a Nestlé USA plant in Danville, Virginia, which was producing cookie dough was closed after the Toll House product tested positive for E. coli bacteria. Flour is the suspected source of the contamination.

It is important to note: The tainted dough did not leave the factory; No recall was necessary.

This was not the story last June when Nestlé issued a huge recall of the refrigerated, ready-to-bake cookie dough. It was linked at the time to an outbreak of foodborne illness in which at least 72 people in 30 states became ill after it is believed they ate raw dough.

All this made me think about sprouts, a food that I loved for decades. Then in 1996 an outbreak of foodborne illness in Japan sickened 6000 and killed 17 after they had eaten radish sprouts contaminated with E. Coli O157:H7. The same bacteria was also implicated in outbreaks involving sprouted seeds in several U.S. states between 1997 and 2004.

Sprouts! When I first read about contaminated sprouts, I thought how is this possible? According to Health Canada, Risks Associated with Sprouts:
"Scientists believe that the most likely source of contamination is the seeds that are used to grow the sprouts. Seeds may become contaminated by animal manure in the field or during storage, and the conditions required to grow sprouts (e.g, warmth and humidity) are ideal for the rapid growth of bacteria."
Since many sprouts, such as alfafa sprouts, are only eaten raw, they are not exposed to the high cooking temperatures necessary to kill dangerous bacteria if present. But even sprouts, such as mung bean, that are cooked are not heated sufficiently. An outbreak of salmonellosis in Ontario in 2005 was linked to lightly-cooked, stir-fried mung bean sprouts.

Health Canada takes this problem so seriously that it  has a site devoted to Sprouted Beans and Seeds.

What initially attracted my interest in doing a take on food was a couple of articles in The New York Times examining a little know ingredient in much of the ground beef sold in the United States - ammonia.

It seems a rather creative fellow, Eldon Roth, devised a way to turn fatty slaughterhouse trimmings into what a U.S.D.A. microbiologist, Gerald Zirnstein, called 'pink slime.' Roth's product is used as a ground beef filler in much of the hamburger sold throughout the United States. It was, at one time, even found in Big Macs.

As I read the article, I wondered, "What's in Canadian ground beef?" The USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) lists Canada as the second biggest consumer of American beef and veal.

And I found this on Smart Brief:

"Beef Products, Inc. (BPI) has ground beef down to a science. A top US provider of boneless lean beef, the company grinds more than seven million pounds of meat a week. Its customers include fast-food chains, restaurants, food service operators, meat packers, food processors, and the USDA's school lunch program. Its 60-pound blocks of frozen meat chips are used in hamburger patties, ground beef, hot dogs, beef snacks lunch meat, sausages, meatballs, and frozen entrees. The company touts food safety as a priority. It uses two metal detectors to scan beef before and after processing at its Sioux City, Iowa, manufacturing facility. Outside of the US, Beef Products' customers are located in Canada, Mexico, and Japan."

As the lawsuits concerning some of the food products mentioned mount, I have edited all my posts on food and food production.

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