There’s a new threat in town and it’s not from the typical terrorists—it’s from six little-known deadly food-borne bacterium.
Recently, in a New York Times article “E. coli Path Shows Flaws in Beef Inspection,” reported about “The Big Six”—a range of disease-causing strains of E. coli that usually get no respect or reaction when their E-coli cousin O157:H7 takes center stage for sickening and/or killing thousands of people. These six cousin strains are just as dangerous and you need to know about them.
In April, at least 26 people were sickened by romaine lettuce tainted with one of the six strains—including three teenagers who developed kidney failure.
The outbreak, caused by E. coli O145, was traced to Ohio company Freshway Foods.
Few food companies test for these six dangerous, and often deadly, strains and the meat industry is fighting a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) consideration to outlaw selling ground beef tainted with the BIG SIX—granted, these strains are difficult and time-consuming to identify but isn’t the USDA suppose to be the eyes and ears for preserving our health?
Organic greens producer Earthbound Farms is one of few companies in the U.S. that screens for the full range of E. coli bacteria, and its tests have been illuminating—about 1 in 1,000 samples show the presence of one of the BIG SIX STRAINS. “No one is looking for non-O157:H7 to the level we are,” Will Daniels, Earthbound Farm’s senior vice president for food safety, told the New York Times. “I believe it is really going to emerge as one of the areas of concern.”
- It’s important to remember that E. coli in meat can be effectively killed when cooked at 160 degrees—preventing illness from contaminated produce is much more complex. Scientists believe that the bacteria may be tracked onto produce like lettuce and strawberries by wild animals, or transmitted through irrigation water.
- The USDA is currently developing tests that can rapidly detect the BIG SIX STRAINS of E. coli, and hope to complete them by the end of 2011—not soon enough.
- I, as most consumers, always assumed (assuming was my first mistake) that there is rigid testing at every step of meat processing, and that all the outbreaks of disease-causing bacterium in the U.S. had just simply been a rare occasion where maybe large and under-managed systems failed. The Truth—there is NO federal requirement for meat grinding facilities to test their ingredients for E. coli pathogen. According to the story, huge manufacturers like Cargill—where the tainted meat in a recent recall came from—is not unlike most U.S. meat facilities—it simply relies on its suppliers to check for bacteria and ONLY does its own testing AFTER the ingredients are ground. The U.S. Department of Agriculture ALLOWS grinders to devise their own safety plans!
- So you’re thinking, “I’ll just cook the meat at the recommended 160 degrees and I’ll be safe.” Not so quick my friends. A test conducted for the NY Times found that safe handling instructions are not enough to prevent bacteria from spreading in your kitchen. The Times prepared three pounds of ground beef dosed with an E. coli strain. Cooking safety instructions were followed—E. coli remained on the cutting board even after it was washed with soap and a towel additionally picked up large amount of the bacteria from the meat.
It Doesn’t Stop There
According to food experts and officials, descriptions of the slaughterhouse and meat processing facilities will make your skin crawl—even for non-meat consumers—and then there’s the analysis of what ground beef is REALLY comprised of.
You think ground beef is a chunk of meat sent through a grinder—not necessarily true! Commonly, ground beef is made from slaughterhouse trimmings and a “mash-like product” derived from scraps that are ground together, “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. As The Times succinctly notes, “Neither the system meant to make the meat safe, nor the meat itself, is what consumers have been led to believe.”
Kudos to The Times for their in-depth investigative journalism in the interest of consumers…at least someone is watching out for us!Author’s Note:
I am a meat lover, no doubt about it. However, I ask for my meat well done when dining out and only buy beef, bison and pork from organic free-range farms in my local area. If you can purchase your meat locally, it dramatically reduces contamination because the raw product is not being shipped and processed hundreds or thousands of miles away in facilities handling millions of pounds of meat from dozens of sources.
What You Can Do To Protect Yourself
No, I don’t have a “magic bullet or wand” that will insure you won’t get contaminated meat. What I can offer you is valuable information that I personally and professionally recommend to insure the maximum safe-guards of natural products that will significantly reduce or eliminate bacteria on surfaces, including your hands.
- NEVER use a cloth towel in the kitchen when working with animal products of any kind—use a disposable product like paper for everything from wiping boards and surfaces to wiping your hands after you wash them.
- After cleaning cutting boards and surfaces with hot soapy water and rinsing well, use a microfiber cloth ("Antibac Enviro Cloth" Antibac® Enviro Cloth) dedicated ONLY for animal products. I use one that is totally unique as it is made with embedded silver solution known to kill bacteria of all types. The silver solution does not wear off even after dozens of times of laundering. This ingenious product line is used in many hospitals, hospital kitchens and restaurants because of its extra measure of safety and ease of use and laundering. These products are not found in stores and are sold through health professionals and specific target marketing. Keep in mind that silver solution is also embedded into bandages for burn victims and even for wounds for our soldiers because of its ability to “knock out” bacteria, viruses and fungus—it’s a tried and true naturally-safe solution used for centuries.
- For added security, I recommend spraying cutting boards and surfaces with a pure silver solution after thorough cleaning and rinsing has been done ("Argentym 23 2oz Mist" Argentym 23). This is the same product I use to spray in my nose when I fly to avoid airborne germs and the gel to sanitize my hands . This product is not available over-the-counter, it is available through health professionals. This is also the same product I recommend in my extensive protocols and TeleSeminars for “Healthy Travel and while in Crowded Places,” naturally.
NY Times (Oct. 2009)