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The E. coli loophole 

Step right up, consumers, and get your pre-cooked, USDA-approved package of E. coli beef!

Wait. Did he say E. coli? Isn't that the bacteria that live in cow intestines andoften contaminate beef at those massive corporate slaughterhouses? And doesn't beef contaminated with this virulent strain of bacteria cause awful problems for people who eat it problems like screaming cramps, kidney failure and ... death?

Yes, yes and yes.

And you're telling us that our U.S. Agriculture Department is allowing meat companies to market beef that has been found to have E. coli bacteria in it? Yes, again.

It's known as the "E. coli loophole," and it affects millions of pounds of beef each year. When giant processing outfits like Tyson and Cargill get caught with a batch of meat with E. coli toxins in it, you would assume they'd have to throw it out. But, noooo. Instead they're allowed by the USDA to toss it in a "cook only" bin and then use it to make pre-cooked hamburger patties, meat loaf, pizza toppings, taco meat and such.

Thus, contaminated meat is turned into a profit center for the industry. It also means that beef processors are under no pressure to clean up their sloppy, low-cost, rush-rush procedures that cause contamination, since the bad product can still be sold.

Not to worry, say the industry and government in unison, for the cooking kills the deadly bacteria. That's a nice theory, but, in practice, the USDA doesn't even track the amount of beef that goes into the "cook only" category, much less track whether it's cooked properly or is sickening consumers.

The E. coli loophole is a cover-up for bad beef. Notice that no company wants us consumers to know that their pre-cooked beef had tested positive for killer bacteria. It's kept very hush-hush, because, as one disgusted federal inspector put it, "Nobody would buy it if they knew." Jim Hightower is the best-selling author of Let's Stop Beating Around the Bush, on sale now from Viking Press. For more information, visit jimhightower.com.

  • Step right up, consumers, and get your pre-cooked, USDA-approved package of E. coli beef!

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