Over 400 people have been sickened by eating salad, food wraps and other things that contain fresh (uncooked) vegetables at various fast food chain restaurants because May 1, 2018. Others recently became ill after eating prepared salads or using vegetables bagged as salad ingredients brought home from food shop chains. Some men and women who prefer to lick the spoon after mixing homemade or prepackaged cake or cookie dough also got sick on account of the flour (already recalled) or eggs (salmonella) in the combination. Why have things like fresh vegetables and flour suddenly turn into a possible health threat?
No one will like the answer, but it is the truth. In the late 1990s and early 2000s a lot of people started to become seriously ill and some died after eating fresh veggies or prepared foods that contain them such as salads, tacos, wraps and so on. Others got sick from uncooked batter and some fruits. Please note that this was not just your average case of food poisoning caused by stale or undercooked food. These instances involved possible killers like campylobacter, e coli and listeria. Why so many instances and how did they get into our food?
You might be thinking this has to do with home cooks and restaurant employees not washing fresh veggies before using them in something like a salad, sandwich or wrap. Sadly, that hasn’t been the problem. Dirt and outside contaminates like pesticides could 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 several years the same groups of migrant workers and their children picked U.S. grown produce. They tended to move around the country because they had work the majority of the year. When there wasn’t any produce to harvest, they obtained jobs in food processing plants. This caused a huge influx of new faces from Mexico and South American Nations.
The old joke (and just a movie name ) says,”Do not drink the water south of the border.” Why? Because the water supply in a number of these poor countries is dangerously contaminated with all sorts of bacteria. That is because raw sewage is dumped into whatever water is available to move it away from populated areas in places lacking treatment centers. This fact is proven by the regular pollution of seawater off San Diego beaches that’s occasionally so contaminated with Mexican sewage that swimming is dangerous.
In many cases the same freshwater that is badly contaminated with sewage is used for drinking and washing clothes. Since this has gone on for so long, the people in these places have built up immunities to the majority of the contaminates. However, they remain in their bodies. Sometimes growers do not provide any or appropriate mobile toilet facilities for pickers or employees. Likewise, food processing plants that do not enforce handwashing or other food safety procedures wind up with the same problem if their workers make physical contact with food through touch or perspiration.
Dangerous bacteria are sucked up into crops through the water they absorb from the ground. That type of contamination can’t be washed out; it is in the food. The exact same goes if bacteria gets into processed food through carelessness. Testing helps with processing centers, but it’s usually too late to grab all the tainted food products in time to keep everybody safe. Last year raw vegetables and some fresh fruit produced one in six people in the USA and Canada sick. Far more than became ill because of undercooked or tainted beef, poultry, pork or seafood. We don’t have the immunities that the pickers and food employees have to fight off dangerous contaminants. So what can be done?
First, identify the problem foods that people tend to eat raw. These would include celery, lettuce, cabbage, any leafy veggies, sprouts, cucumbers, jalapeno peppers and other seeded veggies. I recommend microwaving uncooked veggies for 1-2 minutes on high power. Scientists disagree with one another on the advantage of microwaving, but it’s worked for me and my family for ages.
Fruits, well I can only recommend that you purchase veggies and fruit grown in the USA. Be especially cautious when it comes to strawberries, cantalopes and grapes. Additionally, there are many ways to cook fruit and still retain its taste and health benefits. Cook eggs and meats thoroughly and avoid unpasteurized milk and cheeses. Beware of meats or seafood produced and processed in different countries. Not long ago people were sickened by shrimp raised in severely contaminated breeding pools outside the USA.