Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Your Hamburger Washed with Ammonia:Time to Boycott

Kudos to The New York Times and reporter Michael Moss for an investigative report that laid bare the disgusting process of making frozen hamburger patties.

The article told the story of Stephanie Smith, a children's dance instructor, who ended up paralyzed from eating a hamburger contaminated with a particularly vicious form of E. coli bacteria.

This eye-opening story revealed that giant Cargill uses four different sources for the meat that it grinds into burgers including beef trimmings that are half fat, half meat and trimmings that come from "any small pieces of fat derived from the normal breakdown of the beef carcass" which are heated and put in a centrifuge. The "remaining product" gets treated "with ammonia to kill E. coli." Yummy!

Despite pressure from government officials, Cargill refuses to test each separate supply of "meat" before it grinds them all together; the only testing is of the final product. So when Smith became ill, it was impossible to track the bacteria back to its source.

Obviously, testing of each source of supply should be required.

But the hamburgers that come out of Cargill's grinders are essentially made of the wastes from the slaughtering process--trash that most of us wouldn't even feed to our dogs. Yet this garbage, some of which costs Cargill as little as 60 cents a pound, according to the article, is sold in supermarkets for, at minimum, $3 a pound.

Spread the word. Everyone should boycott frozen hamburger patties. (Perhaps with one exception: Costco. Costco tests each supply of meat for contamination before it grinds them together.)

If you want a safer hamburger, buy a package of ground beef and spend 5 minutes seasoning it and forming it into patties. Add some breadcrumbs, if you like--that's what Cargill does--for better texture. You'll be less likely to get sick and you won't be giving your business to a company that obviously puts profits ahead of the integrity of its products.


Ms Sparrow said...

I will be sure to be a lot more careful in the future. I guess low cost shouldn't be the decided factor when buying meats.

Frances Cerra Whittelsey said...

You can actually spend less by buying a package of ground meat than by buying pre-made patties. Ground chuck was about $2/pound the other day, while the cheapest frozen patties were $3 minimum.

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