Cleaner fueldeadlier burgers?

It turns out that while our quest for a clean-burning gasoline substitute may be "saving the planet," it could also be doing some damage to our food supply. Researchers at Kansas State University have discovered that cattle fed on distiller's grain - a byproduct of the ethanol distillation process - have a greater prevalence of E. coli 0157 in their system.

The good news is, this type of E. coli doesn't threaten the cattle. The bad news? This is exactly the kind of E. coli that's a health risk to humans. (Of course, this whole problem could be completely avoided if cattle were fed grass like nature intended, but that's another story)

I would say that this kind of information would cause the tree-hugging types to give slightly more consideration to their "ban-oil-at-any-cost" ethos, but most tree-huggers are vegan fascists. They'd probably think it was all the more reason to stop eating beef!

You may be wondering why this little bit of information is such a big deal. And that's probably because you don't realize how closely the cattle and ethanol production businesses are linked. Prepare to be shocked.

The distiller's grain is considered such a good feed for cattle that many ethanol plants are built next to cattle ranges. Ethanol producers get an added source of income by selling off the grain to the cattle ranchers, and it's a huge economic advantage for the ethanol people. In fact, because of the growth in ethanol production (because of its potential as a alternate energy source), even more cattle are likely to be fed distiller's grain in the future.

Do you see the same problem that I do?

E. coli 0157 isn't the flesh-eating version of the bacteria that so often comes to mind when E. coli is mentioned (thank you, sensationalist media!), but its effects are far from pleasant. After about a week, those infected by the bacteria can develop severe abdominal cramps and bloody diarrhea.

For most healthy adults, this infection will run its course in about 10 days, even less with a complete course of antibiotics. But as is often the case with this kind of malady, children and the elderly are at the greatest risk, and the result can be much worse: acute kidney failure.

Kansas State's research found that, through three rounds of testing, the cattle fed distiller's grain were twice as likely to have E. coli 0157 in their system. Incredibly, the head of the KSU study said of the findings, "We realize we can't tell cattle producers, 'Don't feed distiller's grain.' What we want to do is not only understand the reasons why 0157 increases, but also find a way to prevent that from happening."

Those are legitimate questions, but until the answers become apparent, why can't they hold off on feeding the cattle distiller's grain? What about the toddlers and old folks who might end up with renal failure because of an underdone burger in the meantime!? What's more, this statement comes from a professor of one of the most respected institutions on the subject of food safety. How can the implications of the findings in this research be flying so low under the radar? How is this not front page news!?

The fact that you can avoid much of the nastiness caused by E. coli 0157 by thoroughly cooking your meat is hardly the point. As a fan of steaks and burgers that are medium rare, I think it's important to - at the very - least put systems in place to make consumers aware if the meat that they're buying was fed distiller's grain.

As much as I like being the one you turn to for the inside scoop, I find it disturbing that I'm the only one spreading the alarm on this discovery. But that's the government for you. When there's money at stake (how many government subsidies do you think ethanol producers get every year for their "green energy supply?"), the FDA always seems to need to do a little bit more research "just to be sure." Our safety be damned.

Green tea reduces cancer risk

It seems like you can't go anywhere these days without hearing about the benefits of green tea. And here's yet another reason to start gulping it down: Recent animal experiments have shown that an extract of green tea wards off colorectal cancer. Does this make anyone else thirsty for a cup of tea?

In the study, rats were injected with azoxymethane - a chemical known to produce colorectal tumors, and then were fed a high-fat diet (i.e., they ate like Americans). Some rats were then given the equivalent of four to six cups of green tea each day in the form of a polyphenol E preparation. The results showed that 67 percent of the rats that didn't get the green tea developed tumors as opposed to only 27 percent of the green tea rats.

The results were so encouraging that the findings have paved the way for clinical trials with green tea polyphenols in humans. But you don't need to wait for these studies. Do yourself and your colon a favor - head out to the store and pick up some green tea and get brewing. The benefits don't stop at the antioxidants. Tea consumption in the U.S. has tripled over the last 10 years - it's a trend you should definitely be a part of.