Got an email from Michael Ruhlman this AM asking:
are you sure e coli doesn't grow in the guts of grass fed cows? i honestly don't know and would like to. i do know it grows in the guts of dogs, hogs, horses and deer (and the deer part is the scary part because they can spread it in spinach fields). Just curious.
That got me wondering, was I confused? Did I really recall everything I've read correctly? So I poked around in the Megnut archives for more information. Here are two articles that I'd linked to last fall that supported me.
From Michael Pollan's The Vegetable-Industrial Complex October 15, 2006 in the New York Times:
The lethal strain of E. coli known as 0157:H7, responsible for this latest outbreak of food poisoning, was unknown before 1982; it is believed to have evolved in the gut of feedlot cattle. These are animals that stand around in their manure all day long, eating a diet of grain that happens to turn a cow’s rumen into an ideal habitat for E. coli 0157:H7. (The bug can’t survive long in cattle living on grass.)
From Nina Planck's Leafy Green Sewage September 21, 2006 in the New York Times:
In 2003, The Journal of Dairy Science noted that up to 80 percent of dairy cattle carry O157. (Fortunately, food safety measures prevent contaminated fecal matter from getting into most of our food most of the time.) Happily, the journal also provided a remedy based on a simple experiment. When cows were switched from a grain diet to hay for only five days, O157 declined 1,000-fold.
This is good news. In a week, we could choke O157 from its favorite home — even if beef cattle were switched to a forage diet just seven days before slaughter, it would greatly reduce cross-contamination by manure of, say, hamburger in meat-packing plants.
Phew! I'm not making things up. Which leads me back to what I said yesterday in Vaccinating against E Coli: why isn't anyone talking about moving cows off of corn feed, even if it's only for the last week of their lives?