Friday, February 8, 2013


If there is a perceptible change in dietary habits where people are increasingly shifting to non-animal based foods, one of the most critical factors has been their perception regarding the safety of meat products offered in the market place by the meat products industry with indifference to the well being of the consumer. There are thousands of reports that indict meat products like various cuts, minced products and ground meat items, the main culprit being the virulent E.coli mostly originating from fecal sources. Slaughter house facilities which ought to be clean, hygienic and safe are not up to the desired standards while the handling personnel with potential as carriers of pathogens are not as clean as they should be. While in tropical countries where the primitive slaughtering practices are still in vogue, food poisoning episodes from meat are far and few, probably because they are cooked properly and the consumers have better immunity to these bugs. Here is a commentary on the situation obtaining in a country like the US where food poisoning episodes from beef products are assuming dangerous proportion. 

"There have been a number of reports of people falling ill from fecal contamination in beef products. E. coli is a group of bacteria that is commonly found in the lower intestine of warm blooded organisms and is known to cause diarrhea, dehydration and in most severe cases kidney failure and death in those with weak immune systems (children, the elderly). E. coli bacteria is normally present on surface of beef in which cooking from 145 F-160 F, depending on how the meat is processed will effectively kill bacteria. However many beef producers mechanically tenderize their beef to produce a tender cut of beef as well as to produce ground beef. The process of mechanically tenderizing meat cuts through the connective tissue in the meat and brings bacteria from the surface to the inner parts of the meat thoroughly infecting the meat with E. coli."

It is still a mystery as to why the beef industry is not using the well proven irradiation technology or other newer technologies that can effectively decontaminate the surface area of the carcass adequately which can pre-empt further contamination of the products during processing. Some critics seem to be pointing their fingers to fresh produce like leafy vegetables for most of the infection in meat, forgetting that the very same slaughter house waste and effluents let out to growing fields are responsible for vegetable contamination! There is an urgent need to over haul the abattoirs to prevent pollution of waters nearby as well as to ensure carcasses are decontaminated thoroughly before processing them into finished products. While safety agencies can contribute to better safety through more frequent and efficient inspections, there has to be more introspection on the part of meat industry regarding their responsibility to the well being of the consumers who are their "bread and butter' partners!


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