Since May 1, 2018, more than 400 people have become ill from consuming salads, food wraps and other items containing fresh (uncooked) vegetables at various fast food chains. Others have recently gotten sick after eating prepared salads or using bagged vegetables as salad toppings brought to the food chain’s home. Some people who like to lick their spoons after mixing homemade or prepackaged cookie or cake dough have also gotten sick from flour (recalled) or eggs (salmonella) in the mix. Why are things like fresh vegetables and flour suddenly becoming possible health threats?
No one is going to like this answer, but it’s the truth. I’ve been writing about this for over twenty years. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, many people became seriously ill and some died after eating fresh vegetables or prepared foods containing them (such as salads, tacos, wraps, etc.). Others got sick from raw batter and some fruit. Note that this is not just an ordinary case of food poisoning caused by stale or undercooked food. These cases involved potential killers such as Campylobacter, E. coli and Listeria. Why are there so many cases? How do they get into our food?
You might think it has something to do with home cooks and restaurant workers not washing fresh vegetables before using them in things like salads, sandwiches or wraps. Sadly, that’s not the problem. Dirt and external contaminants such as pesticides can be washed off the vegetables. Washing won’t help vegetables infected with Campylobacter, E. coli, and Listeria. Today, more vegetables than ever are infected with these pollutants.
The same group of migrant workers and their children have picked American-grown produce for years. They tend to move across the country because they work most of the year. When there was no produce to harvest, they found work in food processing plants. However, as fast food chains and chain restaurants became very popular in the ’80s and ’90s, growers planted more and more people were needed to pick and help harvest the crops. This resulted in an influx of new faces from Mexico and South American countries.
The old joke (and even the movie title) says, “Don’t drink the water south of the border.” Why? Because the water supplies in many poor countries are dangerously contaminated with various bacteria. This is because raw sewage is dumped in whatever water is available to divert it from populated areas where treatment facilities are lacking. This fact is evidenced by the regular pollution of seawater near San Diego beaches, sometimes so polluted by Mexican sewage that it is unsafe to swim in.
In many cases, fresh water, also heavily polluted by sewage, is used for drinking and washing clothes. Because this has been going on for so long, people in these places have developed immunity to most pollutants. However, they stay in their bodies. Sometimes growers do not provide any or proper portable toilet facilities for pickers or workers. The pollutants in their bodies end up underground. Likewise, food processing plants that do not enforce hand washing or other food safety procedures can end up with the same problem if their employees come into physical contact with food through touching or sweating.
Dangerous bacteria are absorbed into crops through the water they suck up from the ground. That filth can’t be washed off; it’s in the food. The same is true if bacteria get into processed food through carelessness. Testing helps processing facilities, but it’s often too late to catch all contaminated food in time to keep everyone safe. Last year, undercooked vegetables and some fresh fruit made one in six people sick in the U.S. and Canada. It’s not just him getting sick from undercooked or contaminated beef, chicken, pork or seafood. We don’t have the immunity that pickers and food workers have to deal with dangerous contaminants. So what can be done?
There are steps you can take to protect yourself and your loved ones from these dangers. First, identify problem foods that people tend to eat raw. These include lettuce, celery, cabbage, any leafy vegetables, sprouts, cucumbers, jalapenos, and other seeded vegetables. I recommend microwaving raw vegetables on high power for 1-2 minutes. Scientists disagree on the benefits of microwaves, but it has worked for me and my family for years.
Fruit, I can only recommend that you buy US grown fruits and veggies. Be especially careful with strawberries, cantaloupe, and grapes. There are also many ways to cook this fruit and still retain its flavor and health benefits. Then, there is always the fruit tart (yum). Cook meat and eggs thoroughly, and avoid unpasteurized milk and cheese. Beware of meat or seafood produced and processed in other countries. Not too long ago, people got sick from shrimp raised in heavily polluted ponds outside the United States.access http://jsi4.tripod.com Health Alerts under Health and Food.