Opinion: Contaminated meat may be in school meals

Star-Gazette (Elmira, NY)

June 9, 2003 Monday

OPINION: Contaminated meat can be in school meals

Thank you for your article alerting the public to the possible entry of irradiated meat into their children's school lunch menus.

But what the story did not mention (and many people don't realize) is that the presence of e. coli bacteria (the primary contaminant in meat that irradiation is supposed to negate) comes from contamination of meat by feces and intestinal contents in the slaughtering process.

In order to keep costs low, modern large slaughterhouse operations have increased line speeds to the point where carcasses almost fly down the line.

That does not allow enough time to properly and cleanly eviscerate the carcass, and the meat becomes contaminated.

Additionally, current processing for the creation of hamburger grinds many carcasses into a slurry, where one contaminated carcass can infect the meat from many others.

Small local butcher shops and family-owned slaughterhouse operations do not have this problem. In fact, their operations (according to owners I have talked to) are under close scrutiny from licensing authorities and are kept to the highest and strictest standards of cleanliness.

This is in contrast to factory slaughterhouses, which are allowed to regulate themselves.

We see the effectiveness of that self-regulation in the large numbers of recalls and outbreaks of e. coli poisoning related to factory-slaughterhouse meat products.

Like the U.S. Department of Agriculture rule specifying the allowable number of rat hairs in hot dogs, meat irradiation does nothing to clean up industry.

It only provides a means of pretending that the meat product is a quality food, without actually taking any action to improve the quality.


HectorFood Service Director

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