E. coli and you

Have you ever watched Food, Inc.? I did recently and I learned something distressing about corn. Did you know that not only is corn in most of our people food, but it’s also the food of choice for factory farms? I did, but what I didn’t know is that it is even worse than I thought, in many ways. I already knew that grass-fed beef, dairy, and eggs are healthier for human beings (even though I don’t eat beef), in part because of higher levels of necessary Omega 3 essential fatty acids, but I didn’t know that because cows in particular have evolved to eat grass, feeding them corn has some pretty serious unintended consequences. It’s not just better for you to eat grass-fed beef, dairy, and eggs. It may end up being BAD for you to eat corn-fed – beef in particular.

I said this was about E. coli, which is a bacteria we find almost everywhere. Usually it’s harmless; occasionally it’s not. When it’s E. coli 0157:H7, however, it can be deadly. And that particular strain of E. coli is showing up in our food more and more often.

Why is this E. coli so different? The problem is that it can resist the acid in our stomachs, whereas most E. coli can’t. This E. coli initially comes from the GI tracts of feedlot cows, and when those cows are fed grains (usually corn), their normally alkaline stomachs become acidic. Thus the E. coli evolved to resist the acidity. When you factor in the filth in factory farms and the problem of waste in factory farms, you have a recipe (*cough*) for disaster. The fecal matter of these cows can contaminate the beef, the groundwater, and the crops nearby. Even better – this E. coli is so far antibiotic resistant.

So, what do we do? Well, I personally think we need to eat less beef, as a nation. I suspect not a lot of people will agree with me, but our extensive meat eating means we have to use corn and feedlots and factory farming to keep up. Then we use antibiotics to deal with the unsanitary conditions. Then we have end up breeding antibiotic resistant bacteria. On and on.

How do we combat this? What do you all think? Maybe there’s a way I haven’t yet thought of besides eating less meat – I’m certainly hard-pressed to think of it. It’s obviously the solution I’ve come up with for myself!

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