The Viva Vine: vol #4, no #1: January / February 1995
Viewpoint: Getting a Vegetarian "Handle" on Deadly Bacteria
by Pamela Teisler-Rice

Recently, my husband was driving into New York from Philadelphia. Listening to the radio, he heard one of those quick little stories on the news. It told of a research team that, upon examining typical households, found higher fecal coliform counts on the refrigerator handle and other kitchen surfaces than in the bathroom.

L&F Products of New Jersey, the people who make Lysol, hired the researchers to study real-world environments in anticipation of marketing its new Antibacterial Kitchen Cleaner.

A Lysol brochure I subsequently obtained notes that according to the USDA anywhere from 6.5 up to 81 million Americans suffer from the symptoms of food poisoning each year with bacteria such as Salmonella, Stapphlyococcus and the deadly E.coli being the culprits. Eating spoiled or undercooked meat and poultry, the brochure noted, is the primary way of getting food poisoning. But, there are other avenues, it said -- namely cross contamination, that is when bacteria from one food source, such as raw chicken, is transferred to another, such as a salad.

It's always good to publicize the dangers of foodborne bacteria, we know; but vegetarians have a different points of view.

Why any bacteria in a kitchen at all ?!

There has been quite a bit of publicity lately surrounding new government rules that require handling instructions on meat and poultry packages. Also, other government rules are now requiring stricter inspection procedures.

The facts remain, however. The chicken business (primarily) has in just the last 30 years become an awesomely huge, well-oiled machine. There exist plants today where a million chickens are housed. Antibiotics are routinely fed to the animals, and today's "factories" (not farms anymore) even "recycle" those chickens that die at the plant, feeding them back to the flock, a sure way for Salmonella to get a foothold. Then, at the processing plant, we have degutting machines and the infamous "fecal soup" where additional Salmonella spreads.

Government recommendations to avoid food poisoning always put the onus on the consumer. Take care to handle meat carefully, they say. The truth of the matter is, Salmonella exists in our kitchens because of today's industry assembly line practices. Why, therefore, is the government too "chicken" to really regulate or, better yet, outlaw factory farming altogether. And why does the government never even mention, let alone suggest, abstinence, i.e.: vegetarianism, as an option?

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