The NYTimes ran a long, comprehensive, investigative story yesterday about the safety of hamburger and problems with contamination by E. Coli O157:H7. Apparently, the number of tests for this pathogen is often kept low, because firms involved must report a bad result to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which they are loathe to do. And some suppliers of hamburger ingredients do not want the firms that purchase these ingredients to test them. Amazing.

The investigative piece follows one woman who was terribly infected, and that

The frozen hamburgers that the Smiths ate, which were made by the food giant Cargill, were labeled “American Chef’s Selection Angus Beef Patties.”

“Angus Beef Patties” sure sounds good, but apparently the ingredients came from multiple sources.  The article goes on to say that

tens of thousands of people are still sickened annually by this pathogen, federal health officials estimate, with hamburger being the biggest culprit. Ground beef has been blamed for 16 outbreaks in the last three years alone, including the one that left Ms. Smith paralyzed from the waist down. This summer, contamination led to the recall of beef from nearly 3,000 grocers in 41 states.

I am reminded of the 1998 book, Toxin, by Robin Cook, who is a physician.  As reviewed here by physician Del Meyer, the protagonist attempts to track the source of E. Coli O157:H7 in hamburger meat that has poisoned his daughter.


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