Stephanie Smith : E. Coli and the Killer Burger

Escherichia coli (known as “E. Coli” to its friends).

E. coli nearly killed Stephanie Smith:
All-beef patty can be big-time trouble

By Carl R. Hultberg / The Rag Blog / October 9, 2009

Stephanie Smith was pretty much committed to vegetarianism. But after her mother insisted she get a little protein from a traditional meal, she broke down and let her mother (Sharon) cook her a burger. Sharon slapped a Sam’s Club beef patty in the frying pan and they had their American style meal.

When Stephanie got sick, her mother was sure she knew what had caused it. It had to be the spinach. What neither of them knew was that the meat industry poisons people all the time. That’s why it rarely makes the news. Stephanie went into seizures and had to be put into a coma to save her life. Today she is recovering, but she will probably never walk again.

The story of the burger that poisoned her is a complex one. No, as you probably have already guessed, the cows (as opposed to steers) who supplied the meat for that burger were not raised on a family farm. If the cows had been raised in this traditional manner, they would have been grass fed, allowed to exercise and slaughtered in a clean environment.

As it was the killer burger came from multiple sources. To maximize profits, Cargill purchased cow meat from here and there, high intensity feedlots where cattle are penned in and pumped full of the high protein food (soy) that makes their meat attractive on the plate. After feeding out in these filthy crowded lots, the animals are brought in to be slaughtered in an assembly line process. Although there are safety rules, greed and the sheer impossibility of keeping feces off the future meat products make food safety in this environment extremely difficult to achieve.

No one knows exactly where the E. coli tainted meat came from. Could be Omaha. Could be Uruguay. All the different sources make it easy for the companies to blame each other, while they speed up production and hire illegal immigrants at lower wages. The American Meat Institute says it is doing what it can to slow down the rate of E. coli poisoning.

Cook your burger all the way through and you will kill the pathogens, diseased tissue and possibly some of the hormones and antibiotics. Then you will have a wholesome American style meal. Medium rare could quite possibly kill you. Meat promoters point to the need for total irradiation of meat products. Just another part of a mouth watering American food experience, I guess, but obviously another workplace hazard for the largely immigrant workforce.

Are there other options? Aside from the obvious vegetarian diet that feeds the world 15X over compared to meat eating? The vegetable diet that is better for your health? The diet that does more to stop global warming than driving an electric car, riding a bicycle and recycling 100% of your trash? The diet that allows humanity to live at peace with animals and each other? Not that diet?

Okay, the other alternative is to go to your butcher and have him (or her) cut and grind up a piece of animal flesh for you to eat. It won’t cost $1 a pound and come in a pre formed patty, but it will put you in a safer and more morally honest position as a meat eater.

Bon appetit!

The Rag Blog

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6 Responses to Stephanie Smith : E. Coli and the Killer Burger

  1. I’ve eaten vegetarian since 1968 – this type of horror story reminds me why I continue…….

  2. Janet Gilles says:

    or buy your burgers at Whole Foods where they see to it that thecattle are humanely raised on pasture, not in concentration camps that breed disease. Burgers originally were 2 oz, went to 4 oz in the sixties, and 8 oz in the eighties.
    Eat a portion size patty, 2 oz, and you can afford to eat wholesome beef. And pastureland sequesters carbon better than any thing else known, even more than the rain forest. Pasture beef in the seventies was cheaper than corn fed, until Nixon decided to subsidize corn and soy, and that will be the case again with Vilsacks policy of subsidizing farmers for carbon sequestration.

  3. Masterspork says:

    Except that fruits and vegetables are not immune ether.

    All told, at least 276 consumer illnesses and 3 deaths have been attributed to the tainted produce.

  4. Fed Up says:

    I lived from age 9 to 17 on a working farm, 165 acres. We had two milk cows, one died of unknown causes (a Jersey(, the other of Bangs disease (Jersey and Guernsey mixed).

    You cannot eat the milk when the milk cow is sick.

    Furthermore, when rag weeds are in season, the milk tastes like ragweed, etc. I recall HATING that ragweed milk! Therefore, I am deeply convinced and utterly certain from my own experience that whatever these corporate fed cattle are being given, both medically and feed wise, is going straight into us.

    I stopped eating beef several years ago. It was not nearly as hard to do as I thought it would be. Its all just habit, and so long as you put something good in the place of a bad habit, you can do it.

  5. ….not immune ether…???? I’m guessing you mean immune either.

    When you grow you own vegetables; harvest your own vegetables, and do it properly, you are ‘immune’ from buying produce that hasn’t been properly handled. Yes, I am immune and nearly 70 years old; never been sick a day from ‘bad food’.

    Properly handling; storing – canning and freezing foods makes a big difference in the quality and safety – I was raised on a 1,000 acre farm; I learned early-on what to do, and what not to do.

  6. Masterspork says:

    Except that not everyone has the time to grow your own food.

    The point of the post was not about which is better, that unless the product is handled right, there is the possibility of getting sick.

    (Use to work in a food safety lab in 2005-2006).

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