Food and Cuisine

Published on May 16th, 2012 | by Vivian Nelson Melle


Mad Cow, E-Coli and Other Health Hazards Associated with Beef

The popularity of documentaries like Food, Inc. and Forks Over Knives have helped bring food safety to the forefront. For many viewers, the films forced them to research how to decrease their exposure to illnesses and long-term diseases. While diets consisting of meat are the most common in the U.S., outbreaks of illnesses, however small, are causing a pause in thought about what is truly healthy and safe.

Let’s take another look at Mad Cow Disease, E-Coli and other health hazards associated with beef and what changes can be made for increasing health, wellness and safety.

Cow in the pasture

Cow in the pasture

What is Mad Cow Disease?

Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) is commonly known as Mad Cow Disease. It can cause variant Creutzfeld-Jacob Disease (vCJD) a fatal brain disease affecting humans. Mad Cow Disease spreads as a prion, not a virus, so disinfectants and antibiotics cannot kill it, although some antibiotics interfere with prion formation. These prions are not alive, they are actually proteins. The incubation period for BSE is problematic as it takes months to years before showing signs and once cattle exhibit symptoms they are terminal, dying within a few months. Sustainable Table offers a helpful fact sheet about the disease including how to keep your family safe.

{cow photo via freefotouk on Flickr}

E. coli

Escherichia coli, popularly known as E. coli, are a collection of bacteria. Not all E. coli make you sick, in fact, E. coli is common. There are strains, however, capable of causing serious symptoms including diarrhea, urinary tract infections, respiratory distress and pneumonia. The illness causing E. coli produce toxins and are known as Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC). While these illnesses can affect anyone, the young and elderly are most susceptible. Eating infected and under cooked meat is just one method of exposure to E.coli, other ways include ingestion of feces from unwashed hands, drinking infected raw milk and even drinking water from infected lakes.

Cardiovascular Disease and Cancer

A study in the Archives of Internal Medicine  reported, ” a daily increase of three ounces of red meat was associated with a 12 percent greater risk of dying over all, including a 16 percent greater risk of cardiovascular death and a 10 percent greater risk of cancer death.” The popular documentary, Forks Over Knives drives this information as the main reason for moving from an omnivore’s diet to that of whole and raw foods. A diet free of meat and dairy products can greatly decrease your chances of getting cancer and heart disease. The question remains, is that hamburger worth a handful of medications or worse, your life?

Vegan "beef" and vegetable dish

Vegan "beef" and vegetable dish

Making Healthy Changes

Perhaps you’re not yet ready to go meat and dairy free. It’s understandable, habits are hard to break. Going meat-free at least one night a week is a great way to start. From there you may increase the days you go meat-free. Jumping head first into a vegan lifestyle is quite a task, but moving slowly from carnivore to vegetarian to vegan is quite common. Still, there are those who simply go cold turkey and give up meat all together. Maybe they have a cabinet full of medications or maybe they’ve recently received a scary diagnosis. Whatever the reason, whole food and raw diets are becoming more common and continue to grow in popularity. For help in making changes Meatless Mondays is a great place for recipes and information on easing out of a carnivore’s diet. Of course you should also visit our post on beef replacement ideas.

{vegan meal photo via steve loya on Flickr}

{Source: Center for Disease Control}


Are you a meat-eater, vegetarian or vegan? If you eat meat, do these illnesses make you think about decrease your meat intake? 

Get the Green Living Ideas book in softcover or PDF for as low as $2.99!

Please follow and like us:

Tags: , , , , ,

About the Author

Vivian Nelson Melle is a writer and life coach helping individuals, families, and businesses thrive. She supports small businesses especially in the areas of Green Living, Health, and Wellness. She can be found at and

Back to Top ↑

Social media & sharing icons powered by UltimatelySocial