King Soopers grocery stores are recalling approximately 466,236 pounds of ground beef products -- including pre-made hamburger patties -- that may be linked to a 14-person outbreak of antibiotic-resistant salmonellosis in Colorado, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service.
This particular strain of Salmonella, Salmonella Typhimurium DT104, is resistant to many commonly prescribed drugs, which can increase the risk of hospitalization or possible treatment failure in infected individuals.
Salmonella infections can be life-threatening, especially to those with weak immune systems, such as infants, the elderly, and persons with HIV infection or undergoing chemotherapy. The most common manifestations of salmonellosis are diarrhea, abdominal cramps and fever within eight to 72 hours. Additional symptoms may be chills, headache, nausea and vomiting that can last up to seven days.
The recall comes far too late to prevent the sale of tainted meat. As has become commonplace, the illness precedes the recall, and the time elapsed between the identification of the problem and the company's recall -- voluntary, because the USDA lacks authority to order it -- allows for the spread of illness. This recall comes from the grocer, not the meat packer, leaving open the question of the origin of the bacteria. Consumers are being urged to check their freezers for the following ground bee products, sold between May 23 and June 23 in Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming:
The ground beef chub products bear a use-by/sell-by date between "05/31/09" and "06/21/09;" the tray packs of ground beef bear a use-by/sell-by date between "06.02.09" and "06.23.09;" and the ground beef patty products bear a use-by/sell-by date between "06.01.09" and "06.22.09." The ground beef products were produced on various dates ranging from May 23, 2009 through June 13, 2009 and bear the establishment number "EST. 6250" within the USDA Mark of Inspection, which is printed on the front of the packages.
Consumers with questions regarding the recall should contact the King Soopers Hotline at 1-800-632-6900.
The recall raises a host of issues about factory farm-raised beef that are now familiar to many more people, thanks to books like the Omnivore's Dilemma and Food Matters and movies like Food Inc. (playing now -- don't miss it!). Animals are raised and fed in such close proximity that they are pumped full of antibiotics in order to ward off inevitable disease outbreaks that occur as the cows wade through their own feces. They are pumped up with hormones to make them grow faster, and fed an unnatural diet of corn (rather than grass), which increases the levels of harmful bacteria in their guts. The slaughtering of these animals is a messy process, and the introduction of bacteria to food-grade meat is not uncommon. Because of the heavy use of antibiotics, that bacteria has the potential to become drug-resistant, as is the case with the Colorado salmonellosis outbreak.
Here's how the Humane Society of America describes conditions for cows on factory farms:
Every year in the United States, approximately 35 million cattle are raised for beef, 9 million cows for milk, and 1 million calves for veal.
Most beef cattle are castrated, de-horned, and branded, painful procedures performed without any anesthesia. For seven months, calves graze on the range before they are transported to feedlots, where they are fattened on unnatural diets. Within six months, they reach market weight of 1,200 pounds and are trucked to slaughter. As with other animals to be killed for food, cattle are not given any food, water, or protection from the elements during the journey.
Consumers can seek alternatives by avoiding meat, or buying grass-fed, humanely raised and organic meat from local farmers (who you can ask directly about farming practices). Because factory farming conditions routinely result in the contamination of food, consumers who shop at conventional groceries have to be vigilant in the preparation of their meals.
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