What is in that burger you had for lunch? Well, there probably was meat, but what about the things you cannot see? Bacteria could have been in the meal and potentially in lethal doses. E. Coli O157:H7 as well as Salmonella are commonly found in many processed meat products. With the increasing speed of the slaughterhouses, unskilled workers, contaminated feed, fecal matter on hides, etc, the spread of diseases has become a huge problem. Infections from bacterial diseases may not be for a short time period either, pathogens can cause “heart disease, inflammatory bowel disease, neurological problems, autoimmune disorders, and kidney damage” (Schlosser).
There are thirteen major meatpacking plants which supply most of the meat consumed in the United States. This only makes distribution of tainted meat much worse. Massive amounts are produced daily and when it originates from minimal sources (the 13 packing companies), there is a higher chance that a large portion of the meat has been contaminated than if it came from many small slaughterhouses. A single contaminated cow who has E. coli can potentially ruin 32,000 pounds of meat.
According to Fast Food Nation, there isn’t any legislation that has been passed that allows the government to recall meat. It can recall “softball bats, sneakers, stuffed animals, and foam-rubber toy cows. But it cannot order a meatpacking company to remove contaminated, potentially lethal ground beef from fast food kitchens and supermarket shelves” (Schlosser). The United States Department of Agriculture tried streamlined systems such as the SIS-C to inspect cattle in an attempt to reduce spread of disease. This however only resulted in worse conditions and was abandoned. The meatpackers have heavy influence in Congress that allows them to have their own way with legislation. If they don’t want to modernize their system, they have officials who will follow what they say. The USDA still can’t recall suspected meat. Even if there is a recall, the company is under no legal obligation to tell anyone what is going on. They don’t have to announce recalls.
Meat packing plants want to start irradiating food they process. This could benefit the people consumers by sterilizing meat, but that doesn’t make it clean. You can sterilize poop. It won’t have any bacteria living in it, but it’s still fecal matter. Rather than focusing on cleaning, irradiation could possibly lead to poorer cleaning methods that would leave fecal matter on the meat since the workers wouldn’t be enticed to physically clean the product as much.
The meat that is put into the school lunch system from Supreme Beef Processors is tainted with salmonella in percentages as high as 47%. SBP has repeatedly violated health rules which results in little affect on the USDA's purchase of meat from them. A violation would happen, the USDA would stop its purchases, and then in a few weeks order massive quantities of meat. It’s almost as if they don’t care about the well being of the youth of the country.
The solution to the contamination problems are not costly. It is a matter of willing the companies to change. They have the resources and funds, now the need to make the switch to producing food that is safer for the general public.