Real Cause of E. coli Spinach Problem

Two studies in the Journal of Infectious Diseases call the safety of our food supply into question; one uncovers a new bacterial danger, and the other shows that antibiotic use in livestock increases the danger of antibiotic resistance in humans.

The first study implicated Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as the cause of an outbreak of food-borne illness among children in a Finnish town. The bacteria was traced to carrots grown on a single farm. This was the first time this type of bacteria had been recovered from an epidemiologically implicated source of food-borne illness.

Yersinia pseudotuberculosis is a well-known pathogen in wild mammals, and wild animals likely infected the carrots, which were stored for months in open containers.

The bacteria was further spread when the carrots were washed and peeled. The authors of the study called for regulations addressing the production, storage and shipping conditions for fresh produce in order to prevent similar problems.

The second study found that exposing poultry to the antibiotic virginiamycin led to resistant forms of the bacteria E. faecium in humans. After being exposed to virginiamycin, E. faecium from conventional poultry and from patients who consumed poultry became resistant more often.

An editorial commenting on the studies noted that the findings are "examples of how industrialization of food production ... carries and even amplifies risk for unaware consumers."

Dr. Mercola's Comments:

Food-borne illnesses like the E. coli infections caused by contaminated spinach point to major problems with the industrialization of food production, which has created many risks for consumers.

The Yersinia pseudotuberculosis infection was caused by a "combination of direct contact with wildlife feces during storage and cross-contamination during washing and peeling."

To remedy the problem, experts are calling for (as common sense would indicate) "multiple measures at multiple levels" to change the way produce is grown, harvested, stored, cleaned, packed and shipped.

Clearly, mass food production is beginning to show signs of neglect, and that neglect is being passed down to consumers looking to buy fresh produce. A safer, more effective option, as many consumers are beginning to appreciate, is to choose locally grown foods over those that have been mass produced.

Not only is non-industrialized food safer, but it's tastier and fresher as well. More and more people are starting to find that out. Already, the organic food market is a $9-billion industry, and is expected to grow about 20 percent a year. And in 2004, about 79 percent of organic farmers were selling their harvests within 100 miles of their farms, with word-of-mouth as their marketing strategy.

One of your best bets to virtually eliminate any exposure to these types of problems in the future would be to purchase your vegetables from locally grown sources. Supporting local farmers would go a long way toward improving the entire system, and more importantly, your personal health.

Here are some great resources to obtain wholesome, local food grown in a sustainable way that is also less likely to spread disease:

Alternative Farming Systems Information Center, Community  Supported Agriculture (CSA)

Farmers' Markets -- A national listing of farmers' markets.

Weston A. Price Foundation -- The goal of the Weston A. Price Foundation is to restore nutrient-dense traditional foods to the human diet through education, research, and activism.

Local Harvest -- This Web site will help you find farmers' markets, family farms, and other sources of sustainably grown food in your area, where you can buy produce, grass-fed meats, and many other goodies.

Eat Well Guide: Wholesome Food from Healthy Animals -- The Eat Well Guide is a free online directory of sustainably raised meat, poultry, dairy, and eggs from farms, stores, restaurants, inns, and hotels, and online outlets in the United States and Canada.

Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture (CISA) -- CISA is dedicated to sustaining agriculture and promoting the products of small farms.

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