Over Christmas I’m forever reminded of a story my father would tell me about my grandfather, who was in the First World War.

He would tell me that although his father would rarely if ever talk about the war, he did tell him an incredible tale that during one Christmas Eve soldiers on both sides, in their respective trenches, began to sing “Silent Night.” That prompted the soldiers to leave the protection of their trenches and walk across ‘no mans land’ to meet to exchange food, drink and Christmas wishes. After which, their commanders had them return to their respective sides in order to begin fighting again the next day.

It was many years later that I found out to my astonishment that this amazing event did in fact take place.

It is during the Christmas season that I’m once again reminded that pathogenic bacteria, unlike enemies in other great battles, even WWI, do not know the meaning of the word truce regardless of the time of year. 

One only needs to go to the respective government websites over Christmas to see more food borne illnesses leading to recalls due to E coli, Listeria and Salmonella. 

Even as Dr. James Marsden tells us that as an industry we can certainly celebrate some of the recent battles won against pathogenic bacteria, the war goes on and, incredibly, we are now opening our eyes to a more prolific enemy as FSIS considers expanding the definition of adulteration to include other possible disease causing strains of E coli.

So we must continue to work together to keep the alliance between the farmers, harvesters and processers strong. It is through cooperation and the sharing of information that we will continue to discover new and unobtrusive ways to augment our processes to eliminate these pathogens, with the ultimate goal of a producing a truly pasteurized carcass married with processors that will handle the product in a way to ensure recontamination does not occur.

I know that together as an industry if we continue to marry our unique processes with investment in new techniques and technologies to eliminate pathogenic bacteria, we will indeed one day achieve our own truce; who knows, maybe our grandchildren will have a few stories to tell about us.

“The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing.” Albert Einstien.