E.Coli And Herd

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Editorial and Opinion  |  House: Booksie Classic

So, I've just finished reading 'Toxin' by Robin Cook. This would certainly be an eye-opener for any meat eaters out there.

E.Coli And Herd

A couple of days ago I finished reading a book called ‘Toxin’ by Robin Cook. This is not one that I would have read before becoming active on Twitter, for this was definitely a case of being ‘forewarned is forearmed.’ The author does not shy away from the more gruesome and horrific details of what goes on inside a meat processing plant; taking us from the killing floor to the boning room, from the carcass room and the bins that go for rendering.

The story revolves around a divorced heart surgeon and his search for answers after his daughter falls seriously ill. Although written in 1998, for the most part it could be just as easily set today. Of course, it being fiction, everything is taken to extremes, but there are also a lot of facts hidden in the pages.

The girl falls ill after eating a burger that was inadequately cooked. Robin Cook does an excellent job of showing how easily this could happen in any fast-food restaurant, no matter how stringent the safety procedures that are in place. One pattie, partially on top of another and that is not noticed in the haste to fill the fast-flowing orders, is not properly cooked through. The girl contracts e.coli 0157:H7.

E.coli 0157:H7 does exist; it can lead to HUS (Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome) which can prove to be fatal. Whereas salmonela is mainly contracted from chicken, the main cause of e.coli is undercooked ground meat, mainly from cattle. So from a medical point of view the storyline might be unlikely but is also perfectly possible.

The other thing that the story revolves around is the power of the meat industry. Where there is a lot of power there is so often a lot of corruption too. The meat industry accounts for a large proportion of many countries wealth. In the US in 2012, beef sales alone were worth a staggering $76.4 billion; in 2018 the exporting a small portion of beef The beef barons certainly have a lot of clout.

The demand has been growing year-on-year which leads to more and more intensive farming methods. ‘Intense farming and animal rearing practices have actually created new and frightful forms of contamination and threaten to spawn more...’ says Robin Cook in the Afterword.

I guess I am lucky in that I have chosen not to eat meat throughout my life. The author shows how cheap protein is both needed as food, and how it is produced. Cattle feed can contain chicken manure and rendered products (for those that don’t know what this means – rendering takes the remnants of a meat source that cannot be used for any other financial gain and grinds them into food for cattle. Take a moment to think about this. Cattle are ruminants, they feed on grass; when they are fed on this processed food, the meat industry is turning them into unwitting and ignorant cannibals.)

I do not preach veganism or vegetarianism, people have to make their own minds up. My parents eat meat; my kids, like me, choose not to. I do think that people should become a bit more informed of what they are eating when they make their choice though; for their own good, and especially for the poor suffering animals. Robin Cook recommends a book for further reading for anyone wanting to know more – Fox, Nichols: Spoiled: What Is Happening To Our Food Supply And Why We Are Increasingly At Risk. The book was published in 1997, but is still available, at least from Amazon. I was tempted, but it is just too expensive for me, and I guess I might well struggle with the terminology too.

Which brings me to the end of ‘Toxin’ but not to ‘Herd’. It struck me the other day, when listening to the news, that there is a lot of discussion going on about achieving ‘herd immunity’ to Covid19. You know, I always thought that a ‘herd’ was a group of cattle, while a ‘crowd’ was the term applied to people. Maybe that fact should become a bit more food for thought.

Submitted: January 17, 2021

© Copyright 2021 hullabaloo22. All rights reserved.

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Add Your Comments:


Mike S.

'La, la, la, la!" A fine essay though

Sun, January 17th, 2021 7:55pm


Told you. Thanks, Mike.

Sun, January 17th, 2021 11:57am

moa rider

I'm not sure about the e. coli types Mama Hullabaloo, but I've eaten some very dodgy meat and haven't been sick. A few random thoughts to add to the discussion though. When I was a kid, other kids would eat raw mince - not much but they never became sick. Here outlets putting mince into burgers aren't allowed sell their bugers raw, but patties are shaped by hand - and gloves aren't always worn or changed regularly. Now with beef, if the animal isn't bled properly when it is slaughtered, the meat quickly becomes toxic. I was at a 'respected' Indian resaurant in England and I saw the chef drop two meatballs on the floor. He quickly picked them up and put them back in the pan. Tut tut - we weren't having meatballs. My African experience taugh me - if the meat isn't served piping hot - don't eat it. I think the most dodgy of all is lettuce. You never know how well its been washed and what the water was like when it was washed. I suppose that goes for other raw vegetables too. The other thing we don't do enough of in the west is washing hands before eating. Our African girls was astounded when she first came here. Usianguke

Tue, January 19th, 2021 4:20am


All very valid points, Moa. Thanks so much for giving this a read.

Fri, January 22nd, 2021 10:52am


As a chef, I've seen some shocking things over the last 30 years going on in kitchens. I have worked and walked out of places where hygiene was shocking. I have refused to serve 'dodgy' food and sacked over making that choice.
I have also worked in kitchens that have been as clean as operating theatres.
I know exactly what horrors the food production industry gets up to and like to keep it a big secret from the gen-pub.
Alas, it still has not turned me away from eating meat. I love a rare matured steak. I certainly would not eat a burger that is not fully cooked through. A trend that Americans do without batting an eye, and something that is catching on over here in the UK. There are strict rules for food outlets serving undercooked mincemeat burgers. Still, I wouldn't go there, thank you.

As usual, HB22, you bring us the readers, great info, and open our eyes to things we would probably pass on reading anywhere else. Keep up the great work, and stay safe.

Wed, January 20th, 2021 10:15am


Thanks so much for giving this a read, C-S!

Fri, January 22nd, 2021 10:44am

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