There are many news stories regarding the E. coli contamination of fresh produce such as lettuce and spinach but not much is mentioned on the actual causes. It is time we start getting to the bottom of the situation and begin talking about the potential sources of contamination.
Once bagged spinach had been identified as the source of the E. coli outbreak, early speculation revealed that improper bag storage, sanitary conditions in the fields, hygiene habits of workers, or the use of reclaimed water to irrigate crops all could have caused E. coli contamination of spinach.
While some, defended the practice of using reclaimed water on crops for human consumption, the recall of 8,500 cartons of lettuce due to the detection of potentially deadly E. coli in irrigation water has led to a renewed focus on the issue. Even the USDA has reported that treated water may develop enough harmful bacteria as it travels through miles of pipes from the point of testing to its point of intended use that it’s no longer fit for irrigation purposes.
Investigators also found E. coli in cattle manure in two pastures adjacent to two spinach fields in the vicinity of the source of E. coli outbreak, intensifying concerns about crop contamination through dairy runoff.
On October 11, 2006, the California State Senate Committee on Governmental Organization’s hearing on the state’s emergency response to food-borne illnesses was scheduled.
The FDA decided not to send any representative to testify at the hearing. The fact that the FDA did not send anyone to help policymakers sort through the complex questions raised by the current spinach outbreak is highly suspicious to say the least and does not speak well about the agency’s openness or cooperation with state officials. Additionally, this sends a very disturbing message to the entire state Senate and to all Californians. Silence on the part of the FDA is troubling to say the least.
Now the USDA is attempting to pass a ruling that would force and mandatory, industrial-type sterilization operation for small farmers who grow green leafy vegetables such as lettuce and spinach.
If they had investigated the situation thoroughly, they would see that the problem is not with the small farmers, but the huge agri-business farms that use reclaimed water, have runoff from industrial dairies and/or poor housing and sanitation conditions for their workers.
As a member of this CSA, you can be assured that your farmer does not bag or have prolonged storage of any green leafy vegetables, provides proper and adequate sanitation and hygiene for his workers, does not use reclaimed water and does not have any dairy runoff.
We need your help. Please read the article on the USDA ruling listed in the index on the right side of this page. You must take immediate action to assure that truly organic foods will be available now and always.