Monthly Archives: September 2006

The Bagged Spinach Brouhaha

I am not a fan of bagged lettuce, greens, or carrots and I have been a non-fan for a few years. If I have to get them or use them at someone else’s house, I wash all the contents at least two more times. But the bag says pre-washed, why wash again? Hives.
Yes, I get hives from eating veggies that come from a factory to the market in a bag. Even worse are the pre-peeled carrots in a bag, as I get hives and stomach troubles.
I much prefer to buy loose carrots and loose lettuce or greens that are still in their own bunch / ball. I can then use the carrots or greens as I need them and wash them as I need them.
Over at Chez Pim, guest blogger Andy Griffith has a good and point essay entitled Spinach!?:

A psychologist might be able to do a better job than I in telling you why so many people feel comforted when they see their food coming to them in sterile looking sealed plastic bags covered in corporate logos, nutritional information, legal disclaimers and “use by” dates. “It’s convenient,” they say. It is true that the open piles of washed baby greens that were once the norm in supermarkets and farmers markets were vulnerable to post harvest/ post wash contamination. Those sneeze guards over the pizza parlor salad bar aren’t there for nothing. But I’ll tell you that every sealed bag of pre-washed greens is like a little green house. The greens inside are still alive, as are the bacteria living on them. If the produce in the bag is clean, great, but if it isn’t the bacteria present has a wonderful little sealed environment to reproduce in, free from any threat until the dressing splashes down and the shadow of a fork passes over. Frankly, I think convenience is overrated.

The LA Times has reported today on E. Coli Pervades Harvest Area:

The bacterium that has sickened people across the nation and forced growers to destroy spinach crops is so pervasive in the Salinas Valley that virtually every waterway there violates national standards.
Monterey County’s Salinas Valley is one of the world’s most intensely farmed regions and a major supplier of lettuce and spinach to the nation. The current outbreak of food poisoning marks the 20th time since 1995 that the dangerous E. coli strain has been linked to lettuce or spinach.
The source of the pathogen has not yet been pinpointed, but tainted water is considered a likely culprit.
Many creeks and streams near the region’s spinach fields, including the Salinas River, Gabilan Creek, Towne Creek, Tembladero Slough and Old Salinas River Estuary, are known to be carriers of the E. coli strain implicated in the food poisonings. When consumed, people experience cramping, diarrhea and, in severe cases, kidney failure.
Although the growers do not draw water from creeks to irrigate their fields, their crops could be tainted by runoff from nearby livestock operations or Central Coast urban areas.

According to the LA Times article, only one stream in the Salinas watershed is E. Coli free, the stream that goes through a state part with good riparian “natural” vegetation. All the other streams and rivers are contaminated by livestock and urban runoff (dog & cat shit).
California agricultural and livestock landowners in conjunction with state and federal authorites need to take better care of the streams and stream buffer vegetation in areas. Keep livestock at a certain distance from the streams and encourage natural vegetation to grow around the perimeters of the drainage.
It is not just the responsibility of farmers, ranchers and the government to make sure our land usage and water supplies are properly husbanded, the rest of us need to do our part, be you in Dublin, LA or a nice rural town: Pick up your cat and dog poo! Urban and suburban runoff effects the health of the streams, rivers and the ocean.