The Latest Techno-Fix to Deal With Contaminated Meat Products

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Food Production Daily reports that hitting meat with electrical current reduces toxic E. coli on the surface, but surface bacteria isn't a problem.

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Bacterial contamination of meat is an ongoing problem and everyone wishes for an easy fix -- one that does not require meat producers and packers to prevent contamination.

Irradiation works, but raises feasibility and other concerns.

How about electrocution?

Food Production Daily reports that hitting meat with electrical current reduces toxic E. coli O157:H7 on meat surfaces by two log units.

The research report says researchers inoculated meat with the bacteria and then applied electrical current. But by inoculation they must mean just on the surface, because they only counted surface bacteria.

Surface bacteria, alas, are not the problem. Searing meat effectively kills surface bacteria. Bacteria in the interior (of hamburger, for example) survive unless the meat is well cooked.

And two log units is unlikely to be good enough for bacteria that cause harm at low doses, as this kind does. The FDA requires a five-log reduction for fresh juices, for example.

I wish researchers would apply their talents to figuring out how to keep toxic bacteria from getting into and onto animals in the first place. Then we wouldn't have to worry about designing techno-fixes to deal with contaminated meat.

Image: Volodymyr Krasyuk/Shutterstock.

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This post also appears on Food Politics, an Atlantic partner site.

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Marion Nestle is a professor in the Department of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health at New York University. She is the author of Food Politics, Safe Food, What to Eat, and Pet Food Politics. More

Nestle also holds appointments as Professor of Sociology at NYU and Visiting Professor of Nutritional Sciences at Cornell. She is the author of three prize-winning books: Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition and Health (revised edition, 2007), Safe Food: The Politics of Food Safety (2003), and What to Eat (2006). Her most recent book is Feed Your Pet Right: The Authoritative Guide to Feeding Your Dog and Cat. She writes the Food Matters column for The San Francisco Chronicle and blogs almost daily at Food Politics.

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