When my sister-in-law was a teenager she explored some of the militant Black Liberation literature and stopped eating pork. This was heresy in Louisville, KY, home of the best barbecue on the planet, and must have caused some suffering to her. But then she could always go with beef. There were no Hindu influences around at the time.
Lately, vegetarianism is looking better. I’ve always felt that if you put some first-rate barbecue sauce on it and grill it, an eggplant will do just fine. But if you want to keep eating pork, and you are worried about food-borne illnesses, here are two studies that point in completely opposite directions to confuse and worry you.
My advice is to do what you’ve probably been doing all along — cook it completely and wash your hands and utensils. Bon appetit.
From the Seattle PI
Federal food safety and public health agencies are being urged to begin checking meat sold across the country for the presence of MRSA, a potentially fatal bacteria. Scientists have found the infection in U.S. pigs and farmworkers.
Members of Congress and public health advocates are demanding that the government determine whether highly infectious MRSA has entered the food supply.
MRSA — methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus — can be extremely dangerous, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Dr. Monina Klevens examined the cases of the disease reported in hospitals, schools and prisons in one year and extrapolated that “94,360 invasive MRSA infections occurred in the United States in 2005; these infections were associated with death in 18,650 cases.”
Are terrorists sneaking around at night injecting pigs with dangerous infections?
Long before MRSA was identified as a potential killer in the early 1960s, public health professionals anguished over the excessive use of antibiotics because they believed it caused bacteria to become resistant to the very medications used to control them.
Farm animals are fed antibiotics by the bucketful. But if you go to that hippy-dippy store, the one that takes your whole paycheck, because you are willing to pay more for antibiotic-free meat, you are a sap — according to a study funded by the National Pork Board. From Yahoo News:
A comparison of pigs raised outdoors without antibiotics and swine reared in conventional pork production settings revealed that antibiotic-free creatures had higher rates of three food-borne pathogens compared with pigs on conventional farms, which remain indoors and receive preventive doses of antimicrobial drugs.
The study cites higher rates of Salmonella, Toxoplasma and roundworms.
Well, that’s why we cook our food. In my utopian dream, we support our local farms, keep it smaller, change regulations so that factory farms have to pay for the damage they do — and eat meat in moderation. Without government subsidies and unwise farming practices it will get more expensive, and needs to be. The bird flu threat is partly fueled by massive poultry farms in Asia, so the American model adopted worldwide is not only unsustainable, it’s imminently dangerous.
But I’m not staying up at night worrying about it. There’s a Farmer’s Market every Saturday at Hope High School. See you there.