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Canada: New Beef-Processing Management Can’t Scrub Disease Danger
October 18, 2012

Canada is in the midst of the largest beef recall in its history. Fifteen people in four provinces have become ill from a strain of E. coli. More than 1,800 products in 33 retail chains across Canada have been recalled. But yesterday, Canadians breathed a misplaced sigh of relief with the announcement that JBS USA is taking over management of XL Foods in Brooks, Alberta, the Canadian beef processor responsible for the recall.

New management can’t help the people who have been sickened—and those who may still come in contact with contaminated meat. And scrubbing and sanitizing the plant won’t protect Canadians from future outbreaks—or other meat-related diseases.

Foodborne infections are alarmingly common, and livestock operations built to meet the voracious demand for meat are to blame: Between 1909 and 2007, meat intake rose from 123 pounds to more than 200 pounds per person per year.

Widespread use of antibiotics in the operations that produce this staggering amount of meat gives rise to resistant bacteria such as E. coli. The number of antimicrobial-resistant bacteria outbreaks has increased each year since 1970, and outbreaks from ground beef are the second most common.

Manure from infected animals can carry disease-causing bacteria such as E. coli into fields and waterways. Through contact with farm workers and contaminated waste runoff, resistant bacteria can spread to humans and to other animals. And many bacterial strains responsible for outbreaks are resistant to antibiotics, leaving few treatment options for those affected.

Foodborne pathogens are dangerous, to be sure, but the fat, cholesterol and cancer-causing agents in meat, chicken, pork, and other animal products are far more devastating to public health in Canada.

Approximately one in four Canadian adults is obese. In the past decade, the prevalence of diabetes among Canadians has increased by 70 percent: Almost 2.4 million Canadians live with diabetes. More than 1.5 million Canadians have heart disease or are living with the effects of a stroke.

Vegetarians enjoy lower risk of heart disease, diabetes, stroke, colon cancer, and a number of other diseases. People have started to get this message. Meat intake in the United States peaked in 2004 at 201.5 pounds per person per year, and has fallen about 6 percent since then.

Canada, if you want to start reducing your risk for foodborne illness and diet-related diseases, download a copy of our Vegetarian Starter Kit today.


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