Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Follow the burger

Did you read this story yet from last Sunday's NYT?

It's about the E. coli outbreak of 2007 when tons of hamburger was recalled.

I point out this story for a couple reasons.

  • It answered the "why" of the outbreak, rather than just sticking to the story of a 22-year-old woman who lost her ability to walk after eating a tainted burger bought at Sam's Club.
  • The story was told by tracking the origin of that burger. I think this made for a much better story than just following the woman -- which would have been compelling in and of itself -- but would not have answered the "why."
And the tie between the woman and the answering of the question "why" is set nice and high in the story:

Ms. Smith, 22, was found to have a severe form of food-borne illness caused by E. coli, which Minnesota officials traced to the hamburger that her mother had grilled for their Sunday dinner in early fall 2007.

“I ask myself every day, ‘Why me?’ and ‘Why from a hamburger?’ ”Ms. Smith said. In the simplest terms, she ran out of luck in a food-safety game of chance whose rules and risks are not widely known.

(Warning: After reading this story I have sworn off of hamburger. For life. The NYT Picker interviewed the author, asking if that was the conclusion readers should draw from the story.)