Just two weeks after King Soopers grocery stores recalled nearly 500,000 pounds of ground beef products linked to an outbreak of antibiotic-resistant salmonellosis in Colorado, a California meat packer is recalling nearly 900,000 pounds of ground beef products, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service.
The strain of Salmonella associated with the first recall is Salmonella Typhimurium DT104, and the strain associated with the second is Salmonella Newport. Both are 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 new recall, by Beef Packers Inc. of Fresno, Calif, includes 825,769 pounds of ground beef products produced between June 5, 2009 and June 23, 2009:
The recall comes with this gigantic "buyer beware" caveat: Because the ground beef products were distributed to retail distribution centers in Arizona, California, Colorado and Utah and repackaged into consumer-size packages and sold under different retail brand names, consumers should check with their local retailer to determine whether they may have purchased any of the products subject to recall.
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 (assuming one cow produces about 500 pounds of meat, this particular recall may mean that 1,600 cows were slaughtered to no good end):
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 beef, humanely raised and organic meat from local farmers (who you can ask directly about farming practices). See how you can green your diet, for your health, and for the health of the Earth. Because factory farming conditions routinely result in the contamination of food, consumers who shop for meat at most groceries have to be vigilant in the preparation of their meals. Here's what the USDA recommends:
Enter your city or zip code to get your local temperature and air quality and find local green food and recycling resources near you.