In regard to Tom Peters' letter, “Accept change and get on with it” (page 8, January BEEF), what the ethanol issue comes down to is theft by policy. And to lie down and let lobbyists take control of our lives with ethanol mandates and subsidies is unpatriotic.

The logical policy would be to let markets determine what fuels and feeds are used. Not only is it wrong to force consumers to subsidize oil, ethanol or corn, it increases costs for all of us and also promotes war.

The interdependence of trade discourages war. The push for energy independence mostly comes from industries that seek an undeserved advantage in the market. The unseen equation in this debate is how much more prosperous we would all be if supply and demand ruled markets instead of the influence of special interests.
Fritz Groszkruger
Dumont, IA

We have the answer

I read with interest and concern the article entitled “Rejected?” in December BEEF.

As a veterinarian with more than 40 years' experience in mixed large-animal practice, I'm well aware of the economic and public relations implications of repeated surfacing of outbreaks of E. coli O157:H7, primarily from a ground beef source. Nor has it been lost on me that many of these outbreaks have resulted in countless cases of human sickness, and even deaths, with the fatalities often defenseless children.

Certainly it's not unusual to note that these outbreaks are a result of contamination of ground beef, often traced back to a lack of a processor's adherence to the industry's own hazard analysis critical control plan (HACCP). My concern is that this article repeats that it is necessary for the end user of the product to cook it to “well done” and to avoid contamination of the cooked product through contact with uncooked product or its juices.

However, it appears the end user or vendor isn't taking this precaution seriously. I am really concerned that the article fails to mention the one proven preventive measure — the irradiation of all ground meat products.

In a Nov. 24, 2007 op-ed piece by Michael Osterholm in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, the director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy and professor in the University of Minnesota School of Public Health says, “E. coli is simply the enemy: we should treat it as nothing less. Irradiation is the only way we can confidently say the meat we eat is safe.”

We have in our hands a safe, effective tool to eliminate E.coli in food products. Unfortunately, only a few processors are using it. The rest are playing Russian roulette with their product and seem to be content with the damage-control cost of outbreak litigation.

Those of us involved in the beef industry should be ashamed that we haven't insisted that the irradiation technology be a mandatory part of ground beef production. Irradiation is a proven, safe, cost-effective technology that can save lives and preserve the livelihood of those raising beef, those processing the product and those of us in related businesses such as veterinarians and publishers of industry press.
Stanley E. Held, DVM
Buffalo, MN

Irradiate all ground beef

It's time to irradiate all ground beef. Despite laudable efforts that have reduced the levels of E. coli contamination, recalls have increased significantly. The reasons are debatable, but the cause doesn't really matter.

Any level of contamination isn't good enough for our children. Every contaminated burger that isn't thoroughly cooked, and every kitchen contaminated through careless food handling, is a disaster waiting to happen. Every kid that ends up on kidney dialysis or dead from hemolytic uremic syndrome is one tragedy too many.

We've known for a long time that irradiation will control the E. coli problem more effectively than any other technology. Why isn't it being used?

Is it cost? How do a few pennies per pound compare with the costs of recalls, or the lost sales and lawsuits that follow outbreaks? The cost of irradiation will be even less as volume increases.

Is it because of perceived changes in flavor or color? Slight changes may be detected by a handful of professional tasters, but hundreds of thousands of consumers in Minnesota and elsewhere who have actually sampled the product can't tell the difference and have enjoyed irradiated hamburgers for nearly a decade.

Is it because of consumer concerns? Special-interest groups and anti-nuclear activists have tried hard to spread misinformation about irradiation. Despite their efforts, irradiated food is already on the market and selling well. Omaha Steaks and Schwan's are irradiating their frozen burgers. Wegman's is selling irradiated fresh ground beef in the Northeast. Where are the protests over irradiated spices or the irradiated papayas and mangos that are now available from Hawaii, India, Thailand and elsewhere?

Research shows that, when given even a small amount of accurate information about irradiation, consumers actually prefer irradiated ground beef and will pay more for it.

It's time for the beef industry to stop being cowed by a small minority, and serve the majority of the public who want to protect their families against food-borne disease. Routine irradiating of ground beef will be good for beef producers. More importantly, it will be good for our kids.
Harry F. Hull, MD
Saint Paul, MN

The DDT fallacy

Editor's Note: Harry Hull is a pediatrician and infectious disease epidemiology consultant. He was the State Epidemiologist for the Minnesota Department of Health from 2000-2006.

I want to express my disappointment at the inclusion of the DDT and thin-eggshell fallacy as an accepted fact in the January BEEF article, “Beef & Birds” (page 28). This is one of the classic cases of junk science run amok in the public mind, which is something those of us in agriculture need to be particularly concerned about. I would suggest your readers reference Steven Milloy's junkscience.com website — a URL I have seen some of your featured guests include in their lists of favorite webpages.
Cathy Bandyk, PhD, PAS
Mineral Point, WI

Editor's Note: Readers can learn more about this issue at: www.junkscience.com/jan00/century.htm and www.junkscience.com/ddtfaq.html#ref6