Friday, February 22, 2008

More Beef Madness, Local Edition

When it comes to the big beef recall, the M.O. seems to be act first and ask questions later. Today's Hartford Courant reports on local response to the nation's largest ever beef recall.

Let's just keep in mind the facts- no positive tests for e.coli or any other pathogens, no reports of any food borne illnesses and 143 million pounds of recalled beef. The response to this has been truly terrifying because everyone seems to be reacting without actually taking the time to understand the situation. Over in Glastonbury, the facilities and food service director doesn't even know why the beef was actually recalled.

"I've gotten a lot of calls from people saying, 'Are you making my kid sick?'" said Brad Devlin, the facilities and food service director for Glastonbury schools.

His short answer: no.

"It's very, very important for people to know that this was not contaminated product. It was recalled because of the inhumane treatment of the critters," Devlin said.

The beef was recalled not because of the inhumane treatment of the cows caught on tape, but because the tape showed sickly downer cows making their way into the food supply. As I said back on Monday, this is all about P.R. and politics, a bit of after-the-fact C.Y.A. (Cover Your Ass).

Here in Connecticut, some school districts are taking the precaution of setting recalled packages of meat aside. Other schools districts, like Region 4, encompassing Chester, Essex, and Deep River, have taken the further step of placing a temporary moratorium on all beef purchases.

And then there's Connecticut's own Rosa DeLauro, who has proposed legislation in Congress to consolidate all food safety regulation into one giant super agency. I heard her on the radio this morning, with WTIC 1080's Ray Dunaway. When asked by Dunaway if the recalled beef was actually tainted, DeLauro responded that it was possible the beef was tainted with e.coli and salmonella. To highlight the dangers of e.coli she referred back to the e.coli outbreaks of the past several years, neglecting to mention that those outbreaks were traced to raw produce.

In all the madness and hysteria, I've neglected to mention the most important point. Any risk of food borne illness in potentially contaminated meat can be virtually eliminated by cooking all beef to an internal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit. Or in other words, the overcooked slop our kids are served at school lunch is never going to be the source of a food born outbreak unless some cafeteria lady forgets to turn her oven on.

As I said, we've got a lot of acting before thinking going on here. To parents of school-aged kids I'd feel pretty comfortable telling them their child was much more likely to die in a bus accident than they were to contract e.coli from eating beef at school. Just think for a moment- a few downer cows- no evidence of food born pathogens- even if their were pathogens, risks from those pathogens are eliminated with thorough cooking- Yet we've reached the point where some schools are now not buying any beef.

And just to return to Rosa DeLauro for a moment,

DeLauro is chairwoman of the appropriations subcommittee for agriculture, which will hold hearings about nutrition on March 14. The committee will specifically examine school lunches "and how to keep this from becoming the industry's dumping ground for bad meat," she said.

I'm 100% positive the meat in the school lunch program is not of high quality but I'm also 100% sure that the meat is not dangerous. Why do schools get lower quality meat? Because schools are run by the government and the government buys that meat. You know, same old story of the government trying to save a buck and cut corners.


Post a Comment

<< Home