www.huffingtonpost.com - December 17th, 2012
This is the origin myth of the food safety system in the United States: The beef industry was a mess, led to awful practices by the profit motives of a few major processing companies, until investigative journalist Upton Sinclair exposed many of the atrocities of the packing plants in his 1906 novel "The Jungle," which spurred the establishment of federal meat inspections, improving safety forever. Today, beef and other meat sold in the U.S. is safer than ever.
This is the true state of affairs, according to a yearlong investigation of the beef industry concluded by the Kansas City Star this week: just four companies process more than 87 percent of the beef packed in the U.S., and take advantage of novel, money-saving techniques that significantly increase the risk of contamination by foodborne pathogens, leading to hundreds of preventable illnesses every year.
The investigation spans dozens of articles, tens of thousands of words and graphic illustrations galore, and is worth browsing around in depth on the Kansas City Star website.
Here are a few of the paper's staggering findings:
The investigators found ample evidence of serious problems with fecal contamination in beef at major plants, despite industry claims that beef was safer than ever. Fecal contamination is obviously the most disgusting kind of contamination on earth -- but it also vastly increases the risk that beef will spread E. coli bacteria, which lives in the intestines of cows.