E. coli Spinach Outbreak Caused by Cows?

  • e coli, spinach, e coli bacterium, e coli infection
    Contaminated ground water from industrial cattle farms may be responsible for the recent E. coli outbreak caused by tainted spinach.

  • e coli, spinach, e coli bacterium, e coli infection

Groundwater contaminated by cattle and used to irrigate spinach crops in California is under suspicion in the investigation of the current E. coli outbreak that has infected more than 100 people, killing one. This particular strain of E. coli, O157:H7, is found in the intestinal tracts of cattle raised on a grain diet, according to a recent New York Times op-ed piece.

U.S. researchers have found that high-grain diets make E. coli more potent. When cattle are fattened on grain, their digestive tracts become unusually acidic and kill off most of the E. coli. But the bacteria that survive are those that have adapted themselves to an acidic environment. This is a major problem for human health because our first line of defense is the acidity of our own digestive juices. Acid-resistant feedlot bacteria can survive our gastric juices in sufficient number to make us ill.

By contrast, the E. coli from grass-fed cattle remains sensitive to acid and is quickly destroyed in our stomachs. 'Switching cattle from grass to grain to speed their growth has created a lot of unforeseen problems,' says Jo Robinson, grass-fed expert and author of the book Pasture Perfect.

For instance, Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE, or more commonly, mad cow disease), has not been found in grass-fed animals. Mad cow is thought to be caused by feeding cattle pieces of brain and nerve tissue from other infected animals. (This practice was abolished in the United States in 1997.) When humans consume meat from animals with mad cow disease, they risk contracting its human form ? Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease. Mad cow disease has not been found among grass-fed animals because they exclusively eat forage materials.

For more on grass-fed beef, read Better Beef. And you can learn more about factory farming by watching The Meatrix, an award-winning online video.

ELLEN Ussery
9/25/2006 12:00:00 AM

Even if E coli 0157:H7 does exist in wild animals, the fact remains that feeding cows grain promotes it and that grass feeding does not. Jim Russell a USDA microbiologist on the faculty at Cornell found that by putting a grain fed cow on grass for a few days prior to slaughter reduces the E-coli 0157 by at least 80%. No one disputes that feed lot cows produce a huge concentrated source of this dangerous bacteria. It is also a fact that this area has had 20 outbreaks of E-coli in the last 10 years. And that most of the rivers in the area are frequently found to be contaminated. Some relatively recent change in the environment of this location must be the cause. The other issue to be faced is that all the efficiencies of scale that enable us to have cheap, convenient produce are exactly what make it so easy to create a widespread disaster.So buy local, seasonal and grassfed and you can change the world one mouthful at a time.

PAT Ruggiero
9/23/2006 12:00:00 AM

DHalgrimson asked where to buy natural animals. I assume the reference is to buying natural *meat*. Check the website:www.eatwild.comto find information on where such products are sold in your area.Pat

DARRELL Halgrimson_1
9/22/2006 12:00:00 AM

Where do you think would be the best place to buy natural animals?

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