Every day in the Unites States, roughly 200,000 people are sicken by a food borne disease, 900 are hospitalized, and fourteen die. In Fast Food Nation, The author Eric Schlosser discusses the severity of the contaminated meat. There are many health risks associated with E coli 0157:H7 such as kidney failure, anemia, internal bleeding, and the destruction of vital organs. Many terrible cases have risen over the years. In 1993, a six year old boy was infected E coli after eating a contaminated burger. He began to have abdominal cramps, described as bad as giving birth. He then began to have diarrhea which led to blood. Persistent doctors tried to save Alex’s life by drilling holes in his head to relieve pressure and inserting tubes in his chest to keep him breathing. Toward the end Alex was suffering from hallucinations and dementia. He was no longer able to recognize his mother or father. There was nothing left of his brain but liquid. This story is very sad and tragic, but goes to show the dangers of these diseases. If the right preventive measures were in place, stories like this would not take place. However, in 1993 they did not have the technological advances and better health systems that we have today. There problems with food borne diseases are associated with a lack of effort to recall contaminated meat, lack of federal inspections, and technologies and processes with the food industry. The industry in constantly thriving, however not enough regulations are being accounted for. I believe the controversy is underestimated, resulting in many injured or dead.
The first problem I associated with foodborne illness was directed to a lack of effort to recall contaminated meat. Meats that have entered the market with problems such as E. coli 0157:H7 and Salmonella have the potential to cause serious health effects. It is the responsibility of the food companies and government agencies to make sure consumers are safe. Schlosser points out that under the current law the USDA cannot issue a recall. What shocked me was that the only option to remove the contaminated meat was to ask the company if they could withdraw their items nor do they have to inform the public. I understand that is has a strong economic impact to the company, but that is no excuse to injure or kill consumers. Here is a perfect example, “In 1994, Wendy’s tried to recall about 250,000 pounds of ground beef without officially notifying state health officials, the USDA, or the public.” There have been many incidents that conclude the same problem, but theirs limited options theses health officials can do. “In February of 1999, when IBP recalled 10,000 pounds of ground beef laced with small pieces of glass.” This is a serious problem and preventive health measures need to be taken place. In the movie food inc there was a very important quote mentioned “We put faith in our government and there not protecting us at the most basic level.” This is a country based off law and order, but seems to not apply to the meatpacking industry. The second problem was the lack of federal inspectors in the slaughter houses. The Reagan and bush administration cut spending on public health measures, leaving far less interest in food safety. It gave the employees the responsibility to uphold the safety tasks required. With outbreaks on the rise, the meatpacking industry was allowed to inspect its own meats. It almost seems that these companies have more power than the USDA. “At SIS-C slaughterhouses, visibly diseased animals cattle infected with measles and tapeworms, covered with abscesses were being slaughtered.” There was also untrained company inspectors allowing shipments of meat containing fecal matter, hair, insects, metal shavings, and urine. What is this world coming becoming? The head of the American meat institute said, “This recent outbreaks sheds light on a nationwide problem: inconsistent information about proper cooking temperatures for hamburgers.” I find this very alarming how they are trying to justify the sanitation problems with not cooking the beef thoroughly. I also did not see one repercussion reported for these incidents. “They’re designed to eat grass and, maybe, grain. I mean they have four stomachs for a reason-to eat products that have a high cellulose content. They are not designed to eat other animals.” By having frequent inspections animals would be fed the required food.
The most important issue with food borne illnesses is the technologies and ways they process meat. In recent years the production of foods has changed dramatically, from the larger shipments to where the cattle were raised. E.coli is a very resistant pathogen. If acid, salt, and chlorine can’t kill it, what can? The recent changes in how cattle are slaughtered, raised, and processed have the greatest impact for spreading a pathogen. The cattle are stuffed into huge warehouses, get little exercise and are surrounded by manure. Doesn’t sound like a healthy and safe way to raise cattle? “You shouldn’t eat dirty food and dirty water, the official told me. “But we still think we can give animal’s dirty food and dirty water.” This just goes to show the respect and care they have for animals and people. With food prices rising, anything is fair game. “About 75 percent of the cattle in the United States were routinely fed livestock wastes.” These conditions are so bad, that they are referred to a feedlot in a busy European city during the middle ages On the technology side of things, productions is much faster but more dangerous. Most of the animal is dissembled by machines, so all it takes is one cattle to be inadequately cleaned and contaminate the rest of the batch. With the fast pace of today’s production, jobs are not performed as proficient. The development of large distribution centers has allowed an increase in the number of meats shipped. By shipping out large quantities from one source, contamination at that source in turn has the potential of producing disease in thousands of individuals. In food inc. the quote, “Birds are now raised and slaughtered in half the time they were 50 years ago, but now they’re twice as big…. They not only changed the chicken, they changed the farmer. Today chicken famers no longer control their birds. A company like Tyson owns the birds from the day that they’re dropped off until the day that they’re slaughtered.” It’s a really disturbing way of treating animals. If they can’t even walk around because they can’t carry their own bodyweight, there should be consequences. What ever happened to animal cruelty? A possible solution would be to require the meat warehouses a weekly checkup by the USDA. If sanitations are not met, they should be shut down for further inspections.
As decades have passed, it shows that little to none safety measures have taking place in the meatpacking industries. However, more pressure is put on these companies to provide a higher quantity and of meat. With only four companies controlling the market, they have a sense of freedom where nobody can tell them what or how to do it. It’s scary to think a tiny particle of hamburger meat containing E coli 0157:H7 could kill you. The problems start with a shortage attempt to take contaminated meat off the market. If then follows with a lack in the process of mandating inspections of the livestock and the slaughter processes. The lives of millions all around the world is at stake when consuming meat, because of this danger it is very important to have sanitary environments for workers and animals to flourish. It seems like they are lifting the veil away from the important subjects, who are in a sense hidden. President Roosevelt made some significant changes in the industry. He overcame the meat packer disapproval and came up with the Meat Inspection Act of 1906. This law made inspectors from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to stop any bad or mislabeled meat from entering any business. The meat packers, however, won a provision in the law requiring federal government rather than the companies to pay for the inspection. It really seems like no jurisdiction can touch these big companies. After hearing these stories of people dying from infected meat, my whole perception my perception changed on the government agencies that allowed this behavior take place. It’s not like E coli 1057:H7 has been around for hundreds of years. It was facilitated in 1982 by the newly emerging technology and social changes. The meat packing industry has changed dramatically over the years. The reason behind this is because as the fast food industry began to take off, so did the consumption of meat. The only way to supply the needs of these places was to build huge slaughter houses, thirteen to be exact. So what exactly is the difference between salmonella and e coli? Salmonella and E.coli are similar in the sense that they are both bacteria, but are in fact completely different types of bacteria. Salmonella is mainly spread by consuming foods that are contaminated by salmonella such as raw eggs, raw meat, eggs, fruits, vegetables, and contaminated water. Contamination will happen when these foods come in contact with animal or human feces and are not cooked properly. You can get E-coli by eating foods that have not been processes properly or if it has come into contact with animal or human feces. These two diseases are very deadly and scary. The new processes that are done to keep out meat disease free is very intriguing. The process involves using the energy from the radiation will break the bonds in the DNA molecules, causing changes in the genetic makeup. Unless this damage can be repaired, the organism will die or will be unable to reproduce. I think this process has the potential to save millions of lives and keep contaminated meats out of the market. I hope in the near future to see less talking and more doing.