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USDA list of food contamination: E. Coli, Botulism, Salmonella, Listeria, Staphylococcus

A package of Dole salad mix that tested positive for E. coli recently triggered a recall in at least nine states, prompting new produce fears almost exactly a year after a nationwide spinach scare.

Last year, an E. coli outbreak traced to bagged baby spinach sold under the Dole brand was blamed for the deaths of three people and for sickening hundreds more across the U.S. Authorities eventually identified a central California cattle ranch next to spinach fields belonging to one of Dole’s suppliers as being the source of the bacteria.

I wonder how many other incidents of contaminated food products there are...

I went to the CDC to see about other E. coli outbreaks. The Previous one listed is the Dole spinach incident in Sept 2006. One I hadn’t heard of concerned Taco Bell and lettuce in November 2006.
A link led me to www.fightbac.com where I found this:

According to public health and food safety experts, each year millions of illnesses in this country can be traced to foodborne bacteria. While the likelihood of serious complications is unknown, the Food and Drug Administration estimates that two to three percent of all foodborne illnesses lead to secondary long-term illnesses. For example, certain strains of E.coli can cause kidney failure in young children and infants; Salmonella can lead to reactive arthritis and serious infections; Listeria can cause meningitis and stillbirths; and Campylobacter may be the most common precipitating factor for Guillain-Barre syndrome.

I then went to the FSIS website. The Food Safety and Inspection Service of the USDA. There I found quite a list including all of the bacteria listed in the title.

Here’s a link to the current list of open cases: http://www.fsis.usda.gov/FSIS_Recalls/Open_Federal_Cases/index.asp

Here’s a link to this years closed cases:

The lists also include mis-labeling, under-processing, undeclared ingredients, pieces of metal, and a few more.

Looking through the list, I see some commonalities to all the incidents…

They are all either processed animal flesh products or processed leafy green products.

As a vegan I don’t consume any animal products. As a raw vegan who only eats whole, ripe, organic foods, I don’t consume prepackaged leafy greens. They loose water and nutrients along each cut edge, so I only cut or tear them immediately before eating. Because I don’t consume any animal or packaged foods I’ve never paid much attention to the recalls. I am surprised at the number of them that never reach the news - at least the news that reaches me - online and NPR.

Take a look through the list. How many did you hear about?

The number of reported incidents has me wonder about the number of actual contaminations… Do you think that industry and government inspection processes catch 90% of them? 70%? 50%? 25%?

This is government after all…

So, what's the best way to avoid the problem?

Here’s the suggestion from a link on the CDC site:

Consumers can reduce their risk for foodborne illness by following safe food-handling recommendations and by avoiding consumption of unpasteurized milk and unpasteurized milk products, raw or undercooked oysters, raw or undercooked eggs, raw or undercooked ground beef, and undercooked poultry (additional information on food safety for consumers is available at http://www.fightbac.org). Other effective prevention measures, such as pasteurization of in-shell eggs, irradiation of ground meat, and pressure treatment of oysters, can also decrease the risk for foodborne illness. (my emphasis)

They’ve got to be kidding!

Well, that’s your government and food industry speaking.

My suggestion?

Become a raw vegan! If you can’t conceive of that yet, then...

Only use whole leafy greens. Cut them yourself. The couple minutes it takes to clean and cut or tear them will reward you with more nutrient rich food.

If you do eat flesh, only buy whole cuts of flesh. Don’t buy ground meat. Don’t buy processed meats. Just like the greens, all the exposed edges from the cutting and grinding increase the available surface area for exposure to bacteria. Do any processing yourself. Get a meat grinder. If that makes you squeamish, you may want to reconsider your meat eating habit. That burger really is a dead, ground up cow!


The greens tend to be "fertilized" with sewage from factory farms (mostly cows) so the common thread continues.

There was a piece on NPR the other day about the tastiness of high-quality beef ground into burgers at home. I imagine that the taste is probably better and that it brings one closer to respecting the people who process our animal foods as well as the animals they came from. I think that respect comes from understanding and common experience. Certainly groups of people who kill and prepare their own animal foods espouse respect for the lives that sustain them.

Wow, again?

Is this happening a lot more often or is it just getting in the news more these days?