Spinach and E coli

rich/ January 23, 2008/ Beef, Food, Pigs, World/

A few months back I linked to the bagged spinach/e coli outbreak in CA.

Researchers have finished their analysis of the situation, and the pigs are busted. Not too surprising, given that they found 4.6 beasts per square kilometer in the vicinity of the spinach farm….that’s a lot of bacon.

Missing from their analysis is the tendency of pigs to relish eating cow poop…that many pigs, in close proximity to cattle ranches, and you’ve got a problem that may well be unsolvable, so long as the local cattle harbor the nasty strain of E Coli.

I’d stay away from California bagged greens, if I were you.

(via Agricultural Biodiversity and Mike)


  1. Rich,

    You might as well tell folks to not get in their car and drive either considering the chances of dieing in a car crash are still much higher.

    Don’t get me wrong, I think we all need to take a look at our food systems- big and small. We all need to be aware of contamination points. A very pertinent thing to be aware of. When food systems get to a large scale quality control gets very difficult.

    But blankly stating “stay away from California bagged greens” really has little merit on it’s own. It’s always a multifaceted problem.

    Just my initial thought on the subject.

  2. Hi Chris

    You’re right…I kind of glossed over the reasoning for my blanket statement. Here’s some of it….

    -Barring the removal of the vector (pigs, which are impossible to completely remove), or the contamination source (cattle, an expensive, if not politically non-viable solution), this problem will continue to happen to these farms.

    -I think that the bagged salad industry will continue to have these issues, even if the contamination sources listed are resolved. Greens have a high nutrient demand, are hard to wash completely, don’t tend to get washed by the end user, can’t be cooked, and tend to be picked by low paid workers who don’t have much stake in a clean product.

    While I have no problem with the hand-bagged greens that we get from Oakhil… I know where they’ve been, I know there aren’t feral e. coli sources wandering the fields, and I know their setup.

    While its true that a car crash is more likely, standard safety practices (buckling up, safe driving, etc) improve your chances, just as avoiding a product that has fundamental, intractable problems. A head of lettuce from the local farmer is worth any extra cost, and the 45 seconds it takes to wash it. At least to me.

    Thanks for your comment


  3. Thanks for the follow up Rich.

    I agree with you completely. Knowing your farming is always the best first step. I’m not much for the “big guys” salad mixes. (Actually I just eat our own) but I was on the defense of the blanket statement because of some good friends in the Bay area that grow excellent greens that are bagged.

    That’s why this whole blogging thing works so well. It can be a true conversation.

    Have a good one!

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