A recent study from Kansas State University is rattling some Iowa farmers, ethanol producers and consumers. The KSU report makes the alarming conclusion that feeding cattle distiller’s grain, a byproduct from the ethanol-making process, increases the prevalence of e-coli in the nation’s beef supply.
Terry Klopfenstein, a researcher at the University of Nebraska, says he’s doing a similar study that’s found different results in an e-coli strain. He says they saw a decrease in the 0157-87 e-coli strain, while at higher levels, they saw an increase. He says: “Our conclusion is that there are some inconsistencies. We’re not saying their (KSU) research is wrong, we want to be sure that that’s clear. It’s just that there are inconsistencies in how the distiller’s (grain) seems to be affecting e-coli.”
Klopfenstein says the Kansas study is making a somewhat moot point anyway, since it’s already widely known that beef needs to be handled and prepared correctly to forego an e-coli problem. He says if the hamburger is properly cooked, e-coli isn’t a problem. Klopfenstein says the number of deaths from e-coli in the U.S. is minimal, something like 61 per year on average, which is really low even compared to lightning strikes. He says the packing industry is doing an excellent job of managing e-coli on its side of the cattle industry.
Klopfenstein says the research will carry on as they try to find ways to make the food industry even safer for all consumers. He says, “We want it to be 100-percent safe. Well, 100-percent is usually not attainable but the point is, we want it to be just as good as it can be and certainly research will continue. We’ve been working for five years on a vaccine that reduces the prevalence in the cattle.” Iowa is the nation’s number-one producer of both corn and ethanol.