American megacorp Cargill, which brought in $116.6 billion in revenue last year, is in the spotlight this week around the story of Stephanie Smith: the 22 year old children's dance instructor was paralyzed from the waist down after eating E. coli-tainted hamburger traced back to the meat supplier.
She was in a coma for nine weeks (that's her, hospitalized, in the photo below), and can now no longer walk. "Ground beef is not a completely safe product," one food safety expert in the article is quoted. Well, no shit. Snip from an extensive investigative report in Sunday's New York Times:
The frozen hamburgers that the Smiths ate, which were made by the food giant Cargill, were labeled "American Chef's Selection Angus Beef Patties." Yet confidential grinding logs and other Cargill records show that the hamburgers were made from a mix of slaughterhouse trimmings and a mash-like product derived from scraps that were ground together at a plant in Wisconsin. The ingredients came from slaughterhouses in Nebraska, Texas and Uruguay, and from a South Dakota company that processes fatty trimmings and treats them with ammonia to kill bacteria.
Using a combination of sources — a practice followed by most large producers of fresh and packaged hamburger — allowed Cargill to spend about 25 percent less than it would have for cuts of whole meat.
Those low-grade ingredients are cut from areas of the cow that are more likely to have had contact with feces, which carries E. coli, industry research shows. Yet Cargill, like most meat companies, relies on its suppliers to check for the bacteria and does its own testing only after the ingredients are ground together.
E. Coli Path Shows Flaws in Beef Inspection (New York Times)