Breaking News: Topps Meat is going out of business!
- *Breaking News: Topps Meat is going out of business!
South Florida Sun-Sentinel.com
Prevent E. coli by changing your diet
October 5, 2007
/By Susan Levin
Worried about beef? If the Topps Meat recall made you think twice about
biting into a burger, you aren't alone. The company recently recalled
almost 22 million pounds of frozen hamburger because of possible E. coli
contamination, which has been linked to more than 25 reported illnesses
in more than half a dozen states, including Florida.
Despite well-publicized efforts by the American Meat Institute to
increase food safety standards, contaminated meat still finds its way
into our grocery stores and restaurants. In fact, in June of this year,
the United Food Group recalled 5.7 million pounds of beef, which was
blamed for an E. coli outbreak in Western states.
The figures are grim. Every year, Escherichia coli 0157:H7 is
responsible for approximately 60 deaths and more than 70,000 infections
in the United States, and more E. coli infections in this country have
been caused by eating ground beef than any other food. It's a critical
public health issue, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture and meat
companies don't seem to be able to solve the problem.
As a dietitian, I think it's time for consumers to face the facts:
Burgers can bite you back in a big way. And E. coli is not the only
problem. There are other dangers associated with meat that even the most
diligent food inspector can't protect the public from. Our high-fat,
meat-heavy diets are creating a public health disaster.
Meat contributes to obesity and heart disease, and it has been linked to
several forms of cancer, especially colon cancer. In fact, people who
eat red or processed meat are 50 percent more likely to develop colon
Think chicken is a healthier or safer alternative? Think again. Last
year, /Consumer//Reports/ reported that 83 percent of chicken sampled
from supermarkets, natural food stores, and gourmet groceries tested
positive for campylobacter and/or salmonella, two leading causes of
food-borne illness. And in 2002, the USDA announced that 1.8 million
pounds of turkey sent to schools and other food program recipients were
recalled for possible contamination with the deadly listeria bacteria.
Even at its leanest --- white meat, no skin, no added fat --- chicken
gets about 23 percent of its calories from fat. That's not much lower
than lean beef, at 28 percent, and much higher than beans, rice, fruits,
and vegetables, which usually derive less than 10 percent of their
calories from fat. A substantial amount of the fat in chicken is
artery-clogging saturated fat, and chicken is loaded with cholesterol:
USDA figures show that a 3.5-ounce portion of beef has about 86
milligrams, and the same portion of skinless, white meat chicken has 85
Americans need to understand that meat consumption and intensive animal
agriculture play key roles in the E. coli problem. Meat can become
contaminated during animal slaughter, when E. coli bacteria can spread
to various cuts of meat, equipment, and workers' hands. Animal
agriculture can also contaminate vegetable crops, as occurred last year
when spinach tainted with E. coli by manure from a nearby cattle ranch
killed three people.
The Topps Meat recall will likely shame the USDA and the American Meat
Institute into calling for more testing in slaughterhouses and
meat-processing plants. But the best solution is to simply leave meat
out of our diets.
People who follow meatless diets tend to have lower cholesterol and
blood pressure levels than meat-eaters. They also tend to be slimmer and
have a lower risk of obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and some forms of
cancer. And staying disease-free also means lower health care costs.
Today, Americans can enjoy a wide variety of meatless options, ranging
from beans and rice to vegetable-based soups to veggie hot dogs and
veggie burgers. Why take risks associated with meat when a vegetarian
diet can help eliminate the risk of food-borne illness, improve overall
health, and prevent disease?
Susan Levin is a staff dietitian with the Physicians Committee for
Responsible Medicine in Washington, DC.
Copyright © 2007, South Florida Sun-Sentinel <http://www.sun-sentinel.com/>
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