Saturday, October 31, 2009
I was just alerted by a fellow blogger (thanks, Yesmeen) that another site is stealing my posts and posting them as if it is their content. The blogs are completely posted, titles, graphics and all, on this other site that has health advertising also. There is no contact info so I cannot contact the blog administrator.
Blogging is a passion and a hobby for me and I spend a great deal of time researching the information I post to make sure it is accurate and as clearly written as possible. I also try to think of topics that are of interest to a wide variety of readers.
With permission, I allow my material to be re-printed at other credible sites because my goal is to educate and reach even more readers. Those sites attribute my blogs to EverythingHealth.
If anyone knows how to top this practice, I would be grateful to have information.
Posted by Toni Brayer, MD at 1:27 PM
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Karen is a 38 year old new mother (baby girl 8 months) who came to me with unusual symptoms that were of concern. She began having "episodes" of a buzzing, electrical feeling in her head and neck. It felt like a "shock" in her head. At times she would feel so dizzy and off balance that she had to pull over in the car or sit down. There was no headache but she felt some numb patches on her arms and legs. There was a vague depersonalization that accompanied the spells. It would happen for several days, then disappear for weeks and then come back. The "spells" lasted a few minutes to hours but seemed to be increasing over the past week.
When patients present with strange symptoms like this, a doctor has to start at the beginning with a detailed history. Any new medications? Any over the counter medications? Any drugs or alcohol? Any visual changes or blurry vision? The answer to all of these questions was no.
The work up progressed with blood tests looking for Vit B 12 deficiency, thyroid dysfunction, infection. When these returned normal and the symptoms persisted, more testing was needed.
Unusual symptoms like this in a young woman could be a sign of an autoimmune disease that affects the myelin sheath around nerves, such as Multiple sclerosis. In MS the episodes can wax and wane, just like Karen's did. She felt worse when it was hot and MS episodes can be triggered by heat. I was quite concerned that it could be MS, but we were reassured when an MRI of the head and spine returned normal.
Luckily, the symptoms disappeared again. Imagine my surprise two months later when the mystery was solved. Karen had been prescribed Zoloft, a SSRI medication for post-partum depression. She started on a low dose and when that didn't work, her OB doctor told her to increase it. Instead of getting a new prescription, she just doubled the dose and ran out of the drug after two weeks. She would fill the prescription the next month and run out again and again. She was starting and stopping an SSRI medication, getting no good effect, but triggering classic SSRI withdrawal syndrome each time she stopped.
Zoloft is a short acting SSRI. That means they are cleared from the body quickly when discontinued. If the dose is abruptly discontinued there is a rebound that blocks the neurotransmitter, Acetylcholine. It can also cause an excitability in the brain that is not well understood.
When Karen was asked if she was taking any new medication she honestly said "no" because she had stopped the Zoloft and didn't realize the importance of her "on and off" regimen. That one key clue would have solved the mysterious diagnosis months earlier.
When she started taking the proper dose of Zoloft continually, her depression lifted, her "shock waves" and dizziness resolved and it was a good lesson for both doctor and patient.
Posted by Toni Brayer, MD at 9:40 PM
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
What medical condition costs the U.S. Health system the most in disability and overall costs? If you said heart disease or cancer or pulmonary disease you would be wrong! I would have said one of those myself.
The answer...slow drumroll....is musculoskeletal disease. Yes, 50% of the adult population reported having a disabling musculoskeletal condition in 2008. The expenditures for these problems include the costs of preventive care, the cost of direct care, the cost of care in hospitals, by physicians, therapists and other caregivers. It also includes the loss of productivity. In 2004 it was estimated that the cost of care for musculoskeletal problems was $840 billion. (Hey, isn't that about equal to the bank bailout?)
What are musculoskeletal conditions? They include that old nemesis: Low back and neck pain. Spine problems are among the most common problems that bring patients for medical care. That's why the chiropractic industry is booming.
Another leading cause of disability is osteoarthritis, which affects almost 22% of all adults. Osteoarthritis leads to millions of Advil and Tylenol doses and often culminates with total joint replacement (hips and knees). With the influx of baby boomers, the increase in total joints will ensure orthopedic surgeons decades of future employment.
Osteoporosis (bone loss) is another disease of aging that causes hip, spine and humerus fractures in people older than 65. All of those Sally Field commercials for Boniva are aimed at consumers and the expense to diagnose and prevent bone loss adds to the overall cost of treatment.
About 60% of all injuries involve the musculoskeletal system and falls are the most common cause. The emergency department, doctors offices and hospitals all deal with patients with bone and muscle injuries. Patients that are admitted to a hospital spend an average of 5 days in the hospital. Ching, ching!
Despite these facts, the NIH research budget for musculoskeletal conditions has been decreasing with time and they are not in the top 10 conditions that receive funding. In addition, the proportion of orthopedic surgeons to the aging population is not keeping pace. We aren't training enough orthopedic surgeons to keep up with demand and the projected need for 2020 is woefully short.
With declining Medicare payments and rising malpractice insurance costs, physicians are shying away from specialties that take care of "old" people. Rheumatology, geriatrics, primary care and orthopedic surgery are all specialties that are going to be needed, but we have done no workforce planning as a nation to ensure there will be enough to care for the population.
Posted by Toni Brayer, MD at 9:22 PM
Medical Tourism has been a growing phenomena since the cost of health care is increasing by double digits each year in the United States. The Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA) reports that up to 750,000 U.S. patients have traveled to other Countries for surgery. Patients in other countries like Canada and the U.K. travel even more for surgery and medical care. Some health insurance companies will even pay you to travel because they reap the value of lower cost procedures for the insured. How much value? A patient who needs a spinal fusion would pay $90,000 in the U.S. compared to just $7,000 in Thailand.
Medical centers in Thailand, India, Singapore, Argentina, Costa Rica, Brazil, Mexico, Hong Kong, the Czech Republic and Hungary are popular worldwide destinations. Need a new dental bridge? It would cost you $5,500 in the U.S. but only $500 in India. A full facelift can be obtained in South Africa for $1,200 compared to $20,000 here.
Many of the surgeons in these centers were trained in the United States (Harvard, Johns Hopkins) and the Medical Centers are spa-like. The hospitals are accredited by a relative of the Joint Commission, the accrediting agency in the U.S. The price may also cover travel and hotel expenses for the patient and a companion. Medical Tourism or Global Health Care has been called "first- world health care at emerging-market prices".
The American College of Surgeons has acknowledged the changing landscape that Surgical Tourism brings. The ACS has issued a statement that offers tips for patients to consider before booking international surgery. The three main concerns are the possibility that the "informed consent" is not up to par with the U.S., the communication with the health care team may not be like the U.S. and the devices used and the procedures may not be up to U.S. standards.
Cover those bases and the gastric bypass for $6,000 in Costa Rica might look more attractive than paying $28,000 in the U.S. With the out of pocket expense for patients who have insurance, these prices can look attractive. For the 46 million U.S. citizens that are uninsured, a vacation coupled with a hip replacement (USA-$43K, Thailand-$10K) might be appealing.
Posted by Toni Brayer, MD at 6:25 AM
Sunday, October 25, 2009
In the Victorian Era, a doctor could have a carriage trade of just a few wealthy women invalids that he visited every day. It was a status symbol for a wealthy gentleman to have a personal physician come to the house to minister to his wife. Now we know what kind of treatment was being offered!
Posted by Toni Brayer, MD at 11:05 PM
This weeks Shameless Corporation Award is shared by Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey and the company it contracts with to manage claims, Magellan Health Services. Magellan is notorious for denying benefits to the Blue Cross patients. In this case, a young woman who was a victim of date rape was unable to receive mental health benefits even though she was insured. Magellan stopped paying for her mental health visits with a psychologist for no reason. They just said "no"and appeals were met with further denial.
Lois Gorwitz is a psychologist who worked for Magellan for two years as a claims reviewer and she said the culture and pressure from supervisors was to deny claims. Gorwitz said the company denied claims because they are in the business to make money. She quit because she was uncomfortable with the pressure to deny valid claims. Magellan is expecting 2009 profits of $210 million, exceeding predictions.
Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield is the states largest insurer and they posted $5.5 Billion in sales last year. To see more about EverythingHealth's Shameless award recipient, and the college student who was denied benefits, watch this Vid.
Posted by Toni Brayer, MD at 9:02 PM
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Only in the United States could a virus like H1N1 bring out the worst in medical politics and greed. We are facing a "pandemic" that requires coordination, communication and the best of medical practice. But what are we getting? Strikes, lawsuits and anything BUT putting patients first!
The strong nursing union, California Nurse Association (CNA), is taking this opportunity to call a strike on three large Catholic hospital chains (including 34 hospitals) throughout California and Nevada. The union bosses say the chief concerns are a lack of protective gear, improper isolation techniques and staffing that requires nurses to work (oh horrors!) 12 hour shifts during the flu crisis.
Although the nurses seem to want to walk out during a pandemic to "protect patients", the nurses in New York and Washington also filed a lawsuit over the idea that they should be required to get the flu vaccine. You can't have it both ways, nurses! You either want protection or you don't.
This is such an obvious smokescreen for contract negotiations, not H1N1 preparedness. Coincidentally, the CNA is in negotiations now with Catholic Healthcare West. How convenient! Since nurses in California already earn more than many physicians, this type of unprofessional bargaining rhetoric is nursing at it's worst!
By the way, most nurses in California hospitals work part time and receive full benefits. At a time when unemployment is at an all time high, nurses are receiving up to 6% pay raises due to union bargaining.
I respect nurses and believe in true collaboration for patient care, but as we prepare for flu season, this type of unprofessional, opportunistic behavior needs to be called out for what it is!
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
Ever wonder what a copperhead snake bite will do? This patient was bit on his finger 4 days prior. The venom causes local tissue destruction and a secondary infection can set in. Copperhead snake bites are usually not fatal but, as you can see, the damage can be extensive.
(hat tip to copperhead-snake.com)
Posted by Toni Brayer, MD at 10:13 PM
Sunday, October 18, 2009
Proton Pump Inhibitor drugs (PPIs) have been used since the 1980s to reduce gastric acid secretion and to treat ulcers and reflux. They are now among the most widely prescribed drugs world wide and Prilosec and others can be obtained over- the- counter. Any time drugs are used long term, we should be re-evaluating their safety. The good news for PPIs, is that they are safe for chronic use.
PPIs do their work on the parietal cells of the stomach. They bind at the "proton pump" and prevent secretion of acid into the stomach. The effect is prolonged (24-48 hours) and the drug is cleared by the liver with very little effect on the kidneys.
The side effects are few so these medications (Prilosec, Aciphex, Prevacid, Protonics) are often prescribed to hospitalized patients and for patients with GERD, gastritis and ulcers. Patients take these medications for years and there have been numerous studies that looked at potential long-term effects of PPI use.
The studies have shown that PPIs are highly effective drugs and they have revolutionized the management of acid-related disorders during the last 2 decades. When was the last time you heard of someone getting surgery for "ulcers"? That was a common treatment just 30 years ago.
Studies that looked at PPIs and their effect on Vit B12 absorption, iron loss, colon cancer, gastric cancer and calcium deficiency found no definite link. There may be an association in hospitalized patients who are on PPIs and the incidence of Clostridium difficile infection. No association was seen in non-hospitalized patients.
As with all medications, PPIs should be used for appropriate indications only as long as needed. If you or a friend have been taking PPIs for a long time, you may wish to talk with your doctor about a "drug holiday" to see if it is still needed. I review chronic medications with my patients at least every year with the goal of eliminating any that are not absolutely needed.
Posted by Toni Brayer, MD at 9:44 AM
Thursday, October 15, 2009
EverythingHealth strongly recommends a wonderful new book called "The Water Giver" and I predict you will not be able to put it down. Author Joan Ryan is a remarkable writer who takes the reader on a journey she lived when her son, Ryan, sustained a near -fatal severe head and brain injury on a skateboard. It is both a medical drama and a meditation on motherhood.
The book begins with Joan's description of her son's learning difficulties and years of psychological and developmental testing. Her style as a mother was to intellectualize, do research and try to fix what was "wrong" with her son. The years went by with family stress and teachers conferences and medical consultations but it wasn't until the day he fell, that Joan realized some things are too big to be studied and fixed.
The nightmare began when he was 16 and went skateboarding without a helmet. The fall on a hill near their home caused a huge brain bleed that obliterated much of his brain tissue. He remained in a coma for weeks and underwent multiple surgeries to relieve pressure. The book chronicles months of near death events in the Intensive Care Unit that nearly drove his parents insane with worry. I will let you read it to find out how it turns out.
"The Water Giver" is more than a medical story and more than an account of a child's medical crisis. Joan Ryan used this harrowing time to look deep within herself and understand, finally, what her relationship with this remarkable child was all about. It was a time of sadness, fear and anger, but also a time of self-reflection. It was a time for Joan to realize that sometimes, the best you can do for someone you love is to be the water giver and sooth their thirst. Through Ryan's accident, she discovered what was at her core.
This book is interesting on so many levels. The medical story is riveting and each page is turned to find out what will happen next. It is also terrifying because we know how close each of our children can be to an accident that could change their lives forever.
But the wonder of "The Water Giver" is the deep emotion it evokes as we read about the personal transformation that Joan Ryan underwent when she experienced the most terrifying time of her life. And it is a transformation we can identify with and be thankful that she was brave enough to put it down in writing.
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
While playing tennis last weekend, one of my partners whispered, "Hey you should blog about scabies. There is an epidemic going around." I don't know about a scabies epidemic, but catching scabies is common and it can crop up just about anywhere. People don't like to talk about parasite infections, so here is all you need to know.
Scabies are tiny borrowing skin mites with a scientific name of Sarcoptes scabiei. The little female mite burrows just beneath the skin and deposits eggs that mature in about 10 days. New mites hatch and spread to other areas of skin or other people. Symptoms appear 4-6 weeks after infection unless a person has had scabies before. Then the symptoms appear right away.
Scabies are contagious and spread through close physical contact in families, schools or nursing homes. The victim has severe itching, usually worse at night and sometimes you can see little burrow tracks or tiny blisters on the skin. The itching is not caused by the mite but is the body's allergic reaction to the mite. Any part of the body can be infected but they like to go toward the folds of skin...around the waist, wrists, between fingers, breasts, buttocks.
Scabies can be diagnosed by the physician looking under a microscope at small scrapings. Prescription topical creams and lotions eliminate the infestation but the itching can continue for several weeks. (Since it is an allergic reaction). Usually close family contacts are also treated even if they are not showing symptoms.
To prevent re-infestation all clothes and linen need to be washed and dried with high heat. The scabies mite can also be starved by putting items that can't be washed in a sealed plastic bag for a couple of weeks. Mites die if they are starved for a week. Fumigation of the living area is not needed.
Scabies can be dangerous and hard to treat in people that are immune suppressed. For others, the prescription lotions will kill the infection readily.
Posted by Toni Brayer, MD at 5:53 AM
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
This weeks Shameless Health Insurer Award goes to American Community Mutual Company. The saga of 17 year old Brianna Rice starts in the summer of 2008. Her dad lost his job as a business consultant and also lost his group insurance. Continuing coverage with COBRA was too expensive so they took out a new policy with American Community Mutual in Illinois. Because the 17 year old was healthy, the monthly premium was only $130.00
In February, 2009, Brianna was diagnosed with celiac disease. On May 12 the insurance company rescinded her insurance and said it was a pre-existing condition and they would not cover any of the doctor or lab bills. Doctor visits from the distant past had mentioned dizziness, high cholesterol (a lab error), fatigue and a cough. They attributed those mentions to celiac disease and said they would not pay for treatment. A physical exam performed on July 2, 2008 showed no major health concerns.
Celiac disease is a digestive disorder and is treatable by eliminating wheat products from the diet. It does not cause cough, dizziness or high cholesterol. Some patients do experience fatigue.
If insurance companies can collect premiums and then cancel a policy when a patient gets sick, the insurance is virtually worthless. Brianna's father has called several other insurers in Illinois but they will not insure her based on the February diagnosis. She qualifies for the Illinois Comprehensive Health Insurance Plan (CHIP) which is designed to help people who cannot get insurance through the conventional market. The average premium is $7,666 to a high of $16,000.
Congratulations to American Community Mutual Insurance for winning this weeks "Shameless Corporation Award."
Posted by Toni Brayer, MD at 8:17 PM
Sunday, October 11, 2009
It is still uncertain what we will get from the Congress and Senate for Health Care Reform this year but I see some major problems with the bill as it is currently being discussed. They say something is better than nothing but I am not so sure. Politics, partisanship, big money and industry influence are all playing a role that is not good for the American public.
Here are the problems with the current legislation that must be fixed if we are to win:
- It still leaves 25 million Americans uninsured. 100% coverage is a must and if other countries can do it, so can we.
- Insurers are allowed to charge older customers 5X more than younger. If you are in your 50s you may pay $10,000/year. Is that affordable for anyone?
- Insurers can maintain any profit margin they want. $6.5 billion in "insurance fees" (to help make it financially palatable) will be passed on to consumers in higher rates.
- There are no cost controls on what insurers can charge.
- There are no restrictions on denial of care.
- There is no challenge on monopolies (In some areas there are only 1 or 2 insurers).
- There are no controls on drug prices and no government leverage to negotiate rates.
- There is no definition of covered benefits.
- Most of the reforms don't even start until 2013!
- Medicare rates are below inflation and there is a 25% Medicare cut in physician fees.
- There is nothing to benefit primary care and nothing about coordinated care.
- There is no change in the flawed Medicare Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) formula which is totally unworkable with cuts every year that get "reversed" by congress after physicians and AARP go wild.
- There is no public option.
- There is no liability reform.
EverythingHealth supports true Health Care Reform. We deserve a better bill.
Posted by Toni Brayer, MD at 11:07 PM
Friday, October 9, 2009
Medscape has a physician portal and they asked the question: "Where would you like to practice medicine?" The responses from physicians were varied with lots of complaining and joking like "Dubai", but this reply from a family medicine doctor got my attention. I think he speaks for many physicians.
- I would like to work in a fantasy world.
- One where I didn't have to worry about someones economic status.
- Where I could diagnosis and treat and feel confident the patient would actually follow my advice. Where their education level allowed them to be able to read a Rx bottle. And remotely comprehend what I take so long to explain, over and over to them.
- Where we worked to benefit people as best we could, while not being burnt out or abused.
- Where we didn't have to work for a life time to pay off overwhelming school debts.
- Where 3rd party payers, in business to make a profit not provide health care, were a myth.
- Where the legal profession spent time trying to help people, and not as leeches on society, sucking cash out of patient care at any opportunity, often creating the opportunities themselves.
- Where I had the chance to continuously learn rather then spend endless days of clinic drone drudgery. Education limited to reading after a bone weary long day, or compressed into 1 week a year.
- Where all my fellow physicians, worked together for the common good, patients and ours. Advancing medical care, rather than focus on their niche or profits.
- Finally a land where what I did was appreciated. Where my days were not spent in an adversarial relationship with just about everyone, in my struggles to make a difference in a world that just doesn't seem to care if the difference is made or not.
Posted by Toni Brayer, MD at 4:18 PM
Thursday, October 8, 2009
Ovarian cancer has the worst prognosis of all gynecological cancers and it accounts for 4% of all cancers in women. Ovarian cancer has been called the "silent killer" because it was thought to have few symptoms and it is difficult to diagnosis in early stages. There are no good screening tests for ovarian cancer, including Ca125. The Ca125 test is not recommended as a screen for ovarian cancer and is mainly used to look for recurrence in previously treated cancer.
Several recent studies have shown that we were wrong to think ovarian cancer is "silent". There are seven symptoms that have been found to be associated with ovarian cancer and they are often overlooked by physicians and patients. Since only 30% of women are diagnosed in early stage of cancer, these symptoms, especially in combination, can be a clue.
- Abdominal distension (an increase in abdominal girth)
- Abdominal pain
- Increased urinary frequency
- Loss of appetite
- Postmenopausal bleeding
- Abdominal bloating
- Rectal bleeding
Posted by Toni Brayer, MD at 9:10 PM
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
After reading about the "10 Most Dangerous Foods" (sloppy journalism) and the E. coli hamburger gross-out, it is refreshing to read some simple tips from my food hero, Michael Pollen. Michael's readers sent in rules for eating well and some were quite thought provoking. Check it out, but here are EverythingHealth's faves:
- If you are not hungry enough to eat an apple, then you are not hungry
- Avoid snack foods with the "OH" sounds: Doritos, Fritos, cheetos, Tostitos, Ho Hos, etc
- It's better to pay the grocer than the doctor
- Never eat something that is pretending to be something else; fake meat, fake butter, low fat sour cream, chocolate-flavor sauce
- Make and take your own lunch to work
Posted by Toni Brayer, MD at 8:54 PM
The New England Journal of Medicine showed this appearance of the inside walls of a colon found on colonoscopy. The answer to the image challenge, of course, is laxative use. (click on the photo to see up close). The 2nd image shows the appearance of a normal colon. Note the pink skin and the normal folds which are quite different in appearance than the first image.
Laxative abuse causes a condition called Melanosis coli. It causes a dark brown pigmentation that occurs with laxatives containing anthraquinone, such as senna. After a few months of use it is seen and it will disappear when the laxative is discontinued.
Laxatives should only be used for short periods of time. Chronic constipation is a problem for many people. After a visit to the doctor to rule out motility disorder, thyroid disorder or other medical problems, most constipation can be resolved with increased fiber, fluids and exercise. Abdominal massage and relaxation techniques also help to restore good bowel health.
Colonics are never needed for the bowel, which does not build up "toxins" nor are powerful enemas needed for good health.
Posted by Toni Brayer, MD at 5:55 PM
Tuesday, October 6, 2009
The people who send fraudulent scams and viruses are sinking to a new low. I got a message today on my email network that has super firewalls. Despite that, the email from Mrs. Lauren Smith arrived and was titled "Please Read Carefully".
The message, directed to Dr. Brayer, caught my attention. It read:
My name is Mrs. Lauren Smith, a 66 year old lady, and I have been diagnosed with lung cancer and the doctor said that it is a disease of uncontrolled cell growth in tissues of the lung. This growth has lead to the invasion of adjacent tissue and infiltration beyond my lungs. The doctor has told me that I would not last for long due to my condition. Having to know my present condition, I have willed and given most of my property and assets to my immediate and extended family members as well as a few close friends.
I have now decided to give away my personal jewelry box for a non profit cause. I was a collector of gold jewelry for the past 30 years. I am willing to give this to a non profit group. Let me know how this would benefit your cause.
I suppose had I clicked on the attachment or hit reply I would have crashed my computer or infected a virus.
Another email also arrived from a Dr. Jennifer Allen and this one wanted to donate veterinary equipment (1 ultrasound and 1 autoclave) to "my work".
Can't wait to see what kind of wacky emails I get tomorrow.
A good site that talks about email scams is here.
Posted by Toni Brayer, MD at 8:25 PM
Monday, October 5, 2009
This weeks Shameless Health Care Corporation is Cigna. This story involves two identical twin girls who developed cancer at age 4. They were treated with total body radiation and chemotherapy which damaged the hypothalamus and pituitary gland. Those glands are responsible for growth and their endocrinologists determined that they needed growth hormone at age 7 when the damage was evident. Growth hormone is only needed until the bone endplates have developed.
During this time, their dad's employer switched insurance carriers from Aetna to Cigna. Cigna did a medical review and determined that the girls simply had "idiopathic short stature" and did not need growth hormone. Despite letters and "peer to peer" consults with their endocrine specialists, Cigna would not budge and refused to pay for the drug they were receiving.
According to the girls mother, the proactive physicians are very used to dealing with insurance companies and managed to get the drugs free from the manufacturer as a "bridge" because stopping growth hormone stops growth.
Cigna even denied that there was a 2nd twin and they have denied that the parents have appealed the decision.
Cigna certainly wins our award this week for its reckless, shameless behavior as a health insurance company.
Posted by Toni Brayer, MD at 7:35 AM
Sunday, October 4, 2009
It takes a lot to shock me, but the article in today's New York Times about E. coli in ground beef is truly eye opening. I want you to read the entire article but here are some scary highlights and facts that show our meat sources are not safe for consumption:
- A single portion of hamburger meat bought at most supermarkets is not from meat run through a grinder. It is an amalgam of various grades of meat from different parts of many cows and even from different slaughterhouses.
- There is no federal requirement for grinders to test their ingredients for E. coli pathogen.
- Hamburger meat might be labeled "Angus Beef" but it can be made up of low grade ingredients cut from areas of the cow that have contact with feces, which carries E. coli.
- Many big slaughterhouses will only sell to grinders who agree not to test their shipments for E. coli because they fear that discovery will set off a recall of ingredients they sold to others.
- Meat grinders buy trimmings of fatty edges sliced from better cuts of meat and mix them with other fatty meat products that have been centrifuged and treated with ammonia to kill E. coli. One company, Beef Products Inc, produces seven million pounds a week that is sold to grocers and fast-food restaurants and served in the federal school lunch programs.
- The Agriculture Department regulations allow hamburger meat labeled ground chuck or ground sirloin to contain trimmings from those parts of the cow.
- Bacterial testing of ground beef is not required because the industry says the cost would unfairly burden small producers.
- Costco tests trimmings for E. coli before grinding.
- E. coli gastroenteritis is usually a mild disease. Five to 10% can be serious and cause hemolytic uremic syndrome and kidney failure.
- There is no question that the U.S.D.A. does not protect consumers from contaminated meat.
- Hamburger meat is not safe unless you have a butcher grind up a full cut of beef.
I will not be buying hamburger meat ever again. I just threw out some frozen meat from my freezer. The article disgusted me and the description of the slaughterhouses reads like the turn of the century book, The Jungle, by Upton Sinclair , which eventually led to the Meat Inspection Act.
We have learned that we cannot count on the government to protect our finances and we should not count on the government to protect our food. It is up to each of us to learn about and support safe, small organic farming, eating from food sources that are close to home and certainly avoiding ground meat that comes from the grocer.
Posted by Toni Brayer, MD at 9:50 PM