More than 400 people have fallen ill from eating salad, food wrappers and other items containing fresh (uncooked) vegetables in various fast food chains since May 1, 2018. Others have recently fallen ill after having ate prepared salads or used bagged vegetables as salad ingredients brought home from grocery chains. Some people who like to lick the spoon after mixing homemade or prepackaged cookie or cake dough have also gotten sick from the flour (already recalled) or eggs (salmonella) in the mixture. Why have things like fresh vegetables and flour suddenly become a potential health threat?
No one will like the answer, but it’s the truth. I have been writing about this for over twenty years. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, many people began to get seriously ill and some died after eating fresh vegetables or prepared foods that contained them like salads, tacos, wraps, etc. . Others fell ill from the raw dough and certain fruits. Please note that this was not just your average case of food poisoning caused by stale or undercooked food. These cases involved potential killers such as campylobacter, e coli and listeria. Why so many cases and how did they get into our diet?
You might think this is because home cooks and restaurant workers don’t wash fresh vegetables before using them in something like a salad, sandwich, or wrap. Unfortunately, that was not the problem. Dirt and outdoor contaminants like pesticides can be washed off vegetables. Washing will do nothing for vegetables infected with campylobacter, e coli and listeria. There are more cases of vegetables infected with these contaminants today than ever before.
For many years, the same groups of migrant workers and their children gathered produce grown in the United States. They tended to move across the country because they had work most of the year. When there was no produce to harvest, they got jobs in food processing plants. However, as fast food franchises and restaurant chains became extremely popular in the 1980s and 1990s, producers grew more and more and it took more people to pick and help harvest their crops. harvests. This caused a huge influx of new faces from Mexico and South American nations.
The old joke (and even a movie title) says, “Don’t drink the water south of the border. Why? Because the water supplies in many of these poor countries are dangerously contaminated with all kinds of bacteria. This is because the raw sewage is discharged into the available water to move it away from populated areas in places without treatment facilities. This fact is proven by the regular pollution of the sea water off San Diego beaches which is sometimes so contaminated with Mexican sewage that swimming is dangerous.
In many cases, the same fresh water heavily contaminated with sewage is used for drinking and washing clothes. Because it has been going on for so long, the inhabitants of these places have developed immunities against most contaminants. However, they remain in their body. Sometimes growers do not provide suitable portable toilets for pickers or workers. Contaminants in their body end up in the soil. Likewise, food processing plants that do not apply hand washing or other food safety procedures face the same problem if their employees come into physical contact with food through touch or sweat.
Dangerous bacteria are sucked into crops by the water they absorb from the soil. This type of contamination cannot be washed away; it’s in the food. The same is true if bacteria get into carelessly processed foods. Testing helps processing facilities, but it’s usually too late to detect all spoiled food products in time to keep everyone safe. Last year, raw vegetables and fresh fruit made one in six people sick in the United States and Canada. Much more than getting sick from undercooked or contaminated beef, chicken, pork or seafood. We don’t have the immunities that food collectors and workers have to deal with dangerous contaminants. So what can be done?
There are some things you can do to protect yourself and your loved ones from these dangers. First, identify the problematic foods that people tend to eat uncooked. These would include lettuce, celery, cabbage, all leafy greens, sprouts, cucumbers, jalapeno peppers, and other seed vegetables. I recommend cooking uncooked vegetables in the microwave for 1-2 minutes on high power. Scientists disagree with each other on the benefits of the microwave, but it worked for me and my family for years.
Fruits, well, I can only suggest that you buy fruits and vegetables grown in the United States. Be especially careful when it comes to strawberries, cantalopes and grapes. There are also many ways to cook fruit while still retaining its taste and health benefits. Then there are always fruit pies (yum). Cook meats and eggs well and avoid unpasteurized milk and cheeses. Beware of meats or seafood produced and processed in other countries. It wasn’t that long ago that people were sickened by the shrimp kept in severely contaminated breeding ponds outside of the United States.