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 that often 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 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."
Here's something that Christians worldwide will consider to be an abomination: crucifixes and other religious articles made in deplorable sweatshops in China.
A highly respected workers' rights group, The National Labor Committee, has documented the brutal sweatshop conditions at the Junxingye factory in Southern China. Here, young women workers -- many only teenagers -- are forced to toil from 8 a.m. to 11:30 p.m., seven days a week, making Christian artifacts.
They're paid 26 cents an hour -- less than half of China's miserly minimum wage. Out of this meager pay, workers are docked for bad food and bunks in cramped, filthy dorms. This lowers their pay to 9 cents an hour -- less than $10 a week. They get no sick days, holidays or maternity leave -- and, ironically, they have no religious rights.
The National Labor Committee found crucifixes from this factory being sold at New York's St. Patrick's Cathedral -- for $29.95 apiece! The cathedral has now pulled these products from its gift shops, which is an essential ethical step, but barely a start. The church must use its full moral authority and enormous purchasing power to clean up China's sweatshop factories engaged in religious commerce.
Far worse than any one gift shop is the Association for Christian Retail -- a consortium of some 2,000 religious stores that do nearly $5 billion a year in sales of Christian products. Like Wal-Mart, this profitable economic entity has shifted its manufacturing en masse to China, yet it has not revealed the addresses of its factories, much less the labor conditions in them.
This is one association that should ask itself: What Would Jesus Do? For information, call the National Labor Committee: (212) 242-3002.
To find out more about Jim Hightower, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at www.creators.com.