E.Coli Infection – Do You Know Where Your Meat Comes From?
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Escherichia coli, or E. coli, is a bacteria that, when ingested by humans, can cause abdominal cramps, bloody diarrhea and, in extreme cases, convulsions, paralysis and even death. While not all E. coli bacteria are harmful, the harmful variety is found in the intestinal tracts of even healthy beef and dairy cattle.
During the slaughtering process, the bacteria can get mixed into the meat when intestinal contents – i.e., fecal matter – come in contact with the meat. Fecal matter can also come into contact with the meat when the hides of beef cattle, often smeared with feces, are not cut away from the carcass carefully.
Ground meat is particularly susceptible, as one package of ground meat tends to contain meat and trimmings cut from the outer edges of the carcass. Also, grinding the meat means that E. coli bacteria that was just on the surface of the meat then gets incorporated into the product. Ground meat may also contain trimmings and “mash” from slaughterhouses around the country and even the world. One prominent company whose frozen ground beef patties were found to harbor E. coli contained meat products from Nebraska, Texas, Uruguay, and South Dakota.
E. coli infection tends to be more serious in children. In an outbreak in 1994, four children died. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that about 60 people per year die from E. coli infection, and others who have survived the disease have ended up paralyzed.
E. coli affects the intestinal tract, but also the kidneys and nervous system. It has the dangerous characteristics of being able to live on surfaces such as countertops for weeks, and it takes a very few bacteria to cause an infection. It is also highly infectious, spreading from person to person.
Therefore, it is essential to know the source of the meat you eat. Here are some tips for finding out the source of your meat.
1. Buy local meat whenever possible. Join a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) in your area. If that is not possible, call or interview your local butcher, grocery store, or wherever you buy your meat and see who their supplier is. If it is not a local supplier, you can continue your investigation and find out just who the supplier is, or find a more local source.
2. Buy grass-fed, organic beef from reputable suppliers. If you can’t buy local meat, contact organic beef suppliers and butchers and ask for information about how they raise their animals and details about their slaughtering practices. Get to know the farmer, even if you have to do so long-distance.
Remember that meat should always be thoroughly cooked (internal temperature of at least 155 degrees), with no pink areas. In a restaurant, order your hamburger well-done.
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