Friday, September 15, 2006

Would like some E.coli with that salad?

If you haven't heard, there's a huge recall of all bagged spinach grown in the US due to contamination of E. coli. This is not the first time. E. coli contaminated pre-washed factory-farmed spinach has hospitalized and killed in the past.

The contaminated spinach has been traced back to one distributor, Natural Selection Foods based in California. However, it distributes spinach sold under dozens of labels. For a list, check out this article. Amongst this list is President Choice prebagged spinach.

Other brands and distributors could also carry contaminated spinach. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has advised consumers to throw out any prebagged spinach from the US.

So how much damage could one bad batch of spinach do? Well, the outbreak was originally reported yesterday in 8 states. By today, almost 100 cases have been reported in 20 states. So far, 29 victims have been hospitalized, 14 of them with kidney failure. One person has already died.

A huge portion of all the lettuce and spinach for the US and Canadian markets is grown in Salinas Valley, California. Eight of the 19 E. Coli O157:H7 lettuce or spinach related outbreaks since 1995 have originated from this area.

This is another example of how vulnerable out food supply is right now. Food security is more than just whether or not we can enough food transported over to this island. It’s a matter of whether we can trust and depend on that food to be safe for consumption. Relying on agri-corporations to supply our food is putting us at risk. One can only guess how a bacterium like E. coli which lives in the intestines of cows and other animals and is spread through contamination by shit ended up on spinach.

This is a disturbing reminder that we don’t know much about the food supply system as agri-corporate consumers. As long as we keep depending on these anonymous foreign factory farms for our food, we’re at their mercy. We have no say in how the US regulates their food. Don’t tell me that they have the FDA. The FDA is not looking out for the consumer’s best interest in the 21st century. It’s made up of a panel of execs and expects that have deep links to food corporations.

One solution is obvious. Buy local. Buy foods from farms where you can go and see how things are handled. Where you can ask the farmer questions. As a society, we can stop relying on some foreign country to supply the bulk for our food. Especially when we are blessed with great produce and farms right in our own backyard!

That's it for now.


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