Now that fresh spinach is coming back onto the shelves little by little, it’s worth stepping back and getting some perspective on the issue of E. Coli and “SpinachGate.”
First, a quick statistic. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), E. Coli is responsible for 73,000 cases of infection each year (1999 CDC estimate). That means the 188 or so people infected with E. Coli from spinach constitute about 1/3 of one percent of the E. Coli cases for the year.
And where do all the other cases come from? Most cases come from undercooked ground beef (FDA). Yep. Hamburger.I find this very interesting. So why are we making such a fuss over something responsible for only 0.3% of E. Coli infections?
It seems like there are several reasons.
One is that whole problem began with organic spinach, which you would expect would be cleaner and healthier than other products, not deadlier. But more darkly, I think the extra attention on spinach may serve as a pretext for action taken against organic food. It may be that this theatrical “ban on spinach” for the past two weeks is material to be used in a future battle to begin irradiating produce.
Radiation of food is done with the idea that it will kill germs like E. Coli before the food reaches consumers. It is a favorite of the FDA for this reason. It’s a simple solution.
However, radiation of produce also kills or deactivates enzymes, which are a necessary part of our diet and enhance our digestive tract and immune system. Radiation of food also produces free radicals, which can cause damage to our cells and DNA, resulting in cancer and other diseases.
Using relatively small problems with natural food products as a pretext for pushing unnatural processes has happened before. You’ll notice that the FDA Website mentions that E. Coli can come from unpasteurized fruit juices and raw milk. The FDA was able to use 10 E. Coli infections resulting from Odwalla juices in 1996 to almost completely eliminate these juices from the market. And they have their sights set on raw milk too.
I can’t really blame the FDA for wanting an easy solution to our food safety issues. But when those easy solutions kill what’s good about our food, I question the quick fix solutions. I hope I’m wrong about this. But watch carefully to see if the FDA and Big Agriculture use SpinachGate as a reason to irradiate all our food, including organic produce. That would be a shame.
Author by Daryl Kulak