10 January 2010

From Today's New York Times

To the Editor:

Company’s Record on Treatment of Beef Is Called Into Question” (front page, Dec. 31):

Would the average American have believed that hamburgers were treated with ammonia to remove salmonella and E. coli (or, in many cases, not remove them)?

An earlier article recounted an E. coli outbreak traced to Cargill (“The Burger That Shattered Her Life,” front page, Oct. 4). It, too, traced, with a great deal of investigative reporting, the journey fat trimmings take through the meatpacking industry. This is not unlike what we hear from financial institutions trying to track (or not) derivatives. It’s like trying to grip mercury.

The United States Department of Agriculture has been broken for a long time, and it is clear that it cannot protect the American public from illness and death from contaminated meat products. How many more Americans must die before something is done?

Perhaps simplifying the whole process would eliminate the need for multiple inspections, saving the U.S.D.A. labor costs and saving the lives of hamburger lovers.

Why not add only ground fat belonging to the meat being ground? Period. No outside fat trimmings! Sounds too easy, doesn’t it?

Evelyn Wolfson
Wayland, Mass., Dec. 31, 2009

To the Editor:

Let me see if I have this straight: We are now feeding our children stuff that used to be reserved for dog food, by treating it with ammonia, in order to save three cents a pound? Hey, why not just feed the little tykes dog food? I’m sure it would save even more money.

By the way, since we are using the former scraps (described as “pink slime” by one microbiologist) for people now, what are we feeding the dogs?

Mary Ellen Croteau
Chicago, Dec. 31, 2009

To the Editor:

In the United States Department of Agriculture’s dual, and often conflicting, roles as protector of consumers and promoter of agricultural products, it has once again made a clear choice.

By approving the revolting and often ineffective use of ammonia to sanitize the results of substandard meat processing, it has chosen the profits of big business over food safety for all Americans.

Instead of allowing companies to find ways to turn food a dog might reject into cheap human food, shouldn’t the U.S.D.A. concern itself with why there are E. coli and salmonella in our food supply in the first place?

Jan Weber
Brooklyn, Jan. 2, 2010

To the Editor:

If you can smell a chemical in your food, it’s an ingredient.

Andrew L. Chang
Stanford, Calif., Jan. 1, 2010

To the Editor:

Your article gave a whole new meaning to “Where’s the Beef?”

Not in my mouth.

Lesley Lee
Phoenix, Jan. 1, 2010

Note from KBJ: Enjoy your hamburger.