When Hamburgers Cause Sickness, Paralysis, and Death
October 22, 2009
An investigative piece in the New York Times, written by Michael Moss, looked at the plight of Stephanie Smith, a young dance instructor left comatose, near death and now paralyzed from eating a single Cargill hamburger contaminated with E. coli.
Of course, a “single hamburger” can include meat from hundreds of animals. Hamburger meat is often composed of various grades of meat from different parts of cows and even from different slaughterhouses. These cuts of meat are particularly vulnerable to E. coli contamination, but there is no federal requirement for grinders to test their ingredients for the pathogen.
The particular strain of E. coli that infected Smith, known as E. coli O157:H7, is virulent, deadly, persistent and endemic in industrial beef. This year alone almost half a million pounds of E. coli infected ground beef have been recalled nationwide -- and that doesn’t include 800,000 pounds of Cargill beef recalled for contamination with antibiotic-resistant salmonella.