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Why Do People Worry About Eating Raw Meat But Not Raw Plants?

A question similar to this one came in and it has an implication that is incorrect. Some of the answers reflected this error. The point of the question has to do with why it is healthy to eat raw plants, but it isn’t healthy to eat raw meat.

Keying on the operative word, ‘raw’, since meat comes from animals, it may contain bacteria and parasites that are transferrable to man. Cooking normally kills these. Although a lot of people eat Sashimi, meat is normally cooked, but “worry” is probably not accurate. Most people don’t really think about the health aspects when they cook the meat they consume.

Looking at the broader picture, though, people can also get illnesses from plants. Most often, this is because of E. coli bacteria, though not exclusively. I can’t remember an entire year going by in the past decade when there hasn’t been one and usually several massive recalls due to tainted vegetables or fruits. This occurs far more frequently than recalls of meat, though many people aren’t aware of it.

In fact, in January of this year, there was a major E. coli outbreak in several states and Canadian provinces relating to romaine lettuce.

As of October 25 of this year, North Bay Produce issued a voluntary recall of over 2,000 cases of McIntosh, Honeycrisp, Jonathan, Fuji, Jonamac, and Red Delicious apples, because they may be contaminated by a different organism; Listeria monocylogenes. These apples had been in markets in Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, North Carolina, Texas, and Wisconsin. The apples had been on the market since early October.

In September, General Mills recalled a large amount of Gold Medal™ All-Purpose Unbleached flour due to E. coli contamination.

The point is that plant products can be dangerous, too. What’s more, the USDA and FDA closely monitor meat and meat products in the US to prevent illnesses from ever occurring. However, they often don’t know that there is an issue with plant crops until a large number of people have already eaten the contaminated produce.

  • Do you try to stay informed regarding recalls of fruits and vegetables?

    • Yes
    • No
  • Do you try to stay informed regarding recalls of fruits and vegetables and other foods?

    • Yes
    • No

What do you think?

12 points
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Written by Rex Trulove

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9 Comments

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  1. Well, I never heard of vegetables and fruits being recalled here in the Philippines.
    The concern here mostly is the chemicals used in fertilizers and pesticides.
    So people prefer to buy vegetables that have “holes”. Which is a sign of worms/ insects.
    Then again, few people eat raw vegetables here.

    • The issue with the illnesses that trigger recalls in the US are mostly due to handling. The US is extremely sensitive to consumer safety and will sometimes issue a recall when there is the slightest chance of an infectious issue.

    • Some places wax or oil the skin and some don’t. When it is done, it is usually an attempt to add visual appeal to the product so that more people will buy it. They do the same thing with Avocados and guavas, for the same reason.

  2. Could the problems you describe have anything to do with the use of chemical fertilisers on crops? It is certainly wise to wash all fruits and vegetables before eating them, for that very reason.

    We (by which I mean my family) buy most of our vegetables from an organic supplier who does not use fertilisers or insecticides – the main reason for washing the produce is to remove the mud that still attaches to the items from when they were pulled out of the ground!

    In the UK there is considerable concern being expressed over the prospect of importing American meat products after we leave the EU. This is because we are not convinced that American production methods are safe and ethical. In particular, we are worried about washing chickens in chlorine and injecting cattle with growth hormones to make them carry more meat.

    • John, there are issues because of the use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, but they are separate matters. E. coli and other illnesses are as much a case of handling as anything else, really. It is actually unusual for meat on the American market to be recalled, but it is very common for vegetables and fruits to be recalled. Meat is continually checked, but food plants aren’t.

      Hormones and so forth for cattle are primarily only issues for feedlot cattle and not so much for pasture-fed cattle, so this could be a useful tidbit that the UK and other countries could use in regard to American beef. Easily most beef in the US is pastured and not feedlot.

      I should mention that if a person is reasonably healthy and they contract an E. coli or Listeria infection, they may simply think that they have the flu or some stomach virus. They might never know that they had a bacterial infection. It is mostly a danger to the young, the old, and people who are ill and have difficulties with their immune systems.

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