Total Recall

October 5, 2012

Torah Kachur

First a bacon shortage and now this!  XL foods from Brooks, Alberta is in the midst of a nationwide beef recall affecting products ranging from ground beef to steaks.  All because a lowly microbe decided to pitch a tent in the hair of a cow.




How did the E. coli get there in the first place?  From pooh...that's basically the only way.


There are hundreds of different E. coli strains, most of which are harmless or even beneficial, that differ in their serotypes - or if they produce an immune response.  The hapless victims of hamburger disease have been infected with strain O157:H7 - a toxin producing strain that causes cell death in the intestinal lining and kidneys of humans.  But cattle seem to be immune to the toxic effects of this strain and the bacteria live happily in their guts.  When a carrier steer is taken to a feedlot for fattening before meeting its fate, it is crammed in with a whole bunch of other cattle and they are so tightly packed that they often defecate on each other, rub up against one another and generally spread the E. coli that they are normally shedding into the faeces, directly onto the hides of other cattle.  Sounds like a blast!


Then, when the cattle enter the slaughterhouse plant, they should be washed and they should preferably not be covered in fecal matter, but sometimes they are not washed thoroughly.  Then, if all stars are aligned for the bacteria, the dehiding process is mishandled and hair touches the exposed meat which allows the bacteria a perfect breeding ground and a place to hang out a little longer. 


The bacteria then have to survive acid washes or high temperature steam wash to the carcass and possible further irradiation and then it may be free to settle into its new home on the beef.  Finally, if the meat is ground up the little buggers get driven deep into the meat and only if the chef that buys the meat cooks it thoroughly are the E. coli finally killed.


XL foods probably was inept at a few of these steps to let that much tainted meat enter the market.  But testing every single pound of beef that enters the food chain is impossible.  Needless to say, regulations are in place to ensure the best economic situation for the industry balanced with safeguards for the consumer.  But, let's face one likes rules very much.


Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.....who's craving a buurrrrggggeerrrrrr.......



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