The Ramblings of Annie Abalam

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Science’s Next Stab at Eradicating E. Coli O157: H7

on January 21, 2012

At this point in the course, my diet has not changed at all, and I doubt that it will.  I have already enjoyed The Omnivore’s Dilemma, so re-reading it is definitely fun, but I have not learned anything new from that source.  As for the other article we read, while I think it did an excellent job telling a story, most (if not all) of the information was something that I had seen in the past.  (Fortunately, I never get tired of reading about food politics and am happy to absorb the same information time and time again, depressing as it may be.)  What I am looking forward to is finding even more reasons to motivate my boyfriend to continue leaning towards a full-time vegan diet, and I think that the discussions we will have over the next few months will aid me in my quest.

I have spent most of my time in class trying to gauge how others will react to what they are about to learn.  I get upset every time I read about inhumane treatment of animals, or how unsafe it is for my family and friends to be… well, ignorant.  While I am not judging my peers, I am trying to evaluate whether I think they will be affected by what they read.  I was excited to take this class for a few reasons: 1) to expand my knowledge of something that greatly interests me and 2) to know that others are learning about food through an academic lens, and not from a wild activist like myself.  The topics we will explore are not ones that can be dismissed once you spend the time thinking about them, in my opinion.  At the end of the semester, I doubt that there will be vegetarians in the class, but I hope that they will be more aware of what makes its way (or doesn’t) onto their plate.

Food Politics discusses a new theory for eliminating (or “significantly affecting” the presence of) E. Coli O157:H7.  Apparently, shocking beef with an electrical current reduces this deadly strain of E. Coli’s likelihood of presenting itself.  The study conducted only examines the surface of the meat, however, so the reality that E. Coli lurks beneath the surface went untested.  The post links to an article that details the study further.  The scientists admitted that there was a possibility that inactivation of E. Coli cells could be attributed to either the formation of active chlorine gas, or the sodium chloride solution that the samples were placed in.  Still, the study’s final conclusion indicates that the “Log reduction of E. Coli was significantly affected by current intensity, frequency, and duration of treatment.”  The wording of this conclusion seems rather strong after stating earlier in the paper that electrical currents were merely the “most likely cause” of log reduction of E. Coli.

Most people in their right minds acknowledge that eating raw meat is not in their best interest.  Cooking food typically reduces the appearance of bacteria, thus shocking the surface of meat is not the answer to the meat contamination conundrum.  The results of this study do not impress me at all – from what I’ve read, no definitive knowledge was gained, and consumers appear to be in the same position they were prior to the study.  Furthermore, I think that the answer to the problem does not – and should not – lie in more scientific research.  As of right now, many people know that the food we raise livestock on is not ideal.  We also know that raising livestock the way Americans do greatly aids in the proliferation of E. Coli O157:H7 and other bacteria.  If the government would simply make use of this practically common knowledge, we probably would not be wasting our time trying to use electricity to make our food safe.

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