Author Topic: Food alerts  (Read 30616 times)

deBeauxOs

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« Reply #15 on: September 17, 2006, 12:44:38 PM »
Quote from: skdadl
... what's to prevent the same kind of contamination happening in Canadian factory-farm fields?
It happens, and it usually gets identified.  For example, organic non-pasteurized apple juice is vulnerable if a wind-fall apple that was in contact with the ground gets thrown into the mix.  One speck of manure can contaminate that whole batch of juice.  This is why the product is tested and, in fact, I think that unpasteurized juice is no longer sold.  

Fragile fruits and leafy vegetables are a particular concern because they cannot be scrubbed or peeled like root vegetables, say.

Herr Magoo

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« Reply #16 on: September 17, 2006, 02:10:55 PM »
A few years ago it was canteloupes from South America.  And, as  noted, it was recently bean sprouts.  It's true that it could some day be spinach bagged in Canada, or it could be some other green, or it could be local squash, or whatever.  

It might be beneficial to think of these outbreaks as being a little like the culinary version of lightning striking.  Sure, it can happen, and you won't know when or where until it does, but for heaven's sake, don't live in your basement because of it.  :)
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k'in

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« Reply #17 on: September 17, 2006, 07:23:25 PM »
I believe this spinach warning is limited to various brands of bagged spinach from the USA.  It's being played up in the media as part of the overall scaremongering that I suppose is meant to make us go running to big brother for protection.  I'm guessing our ancestors probably consumed lots of spinach, maybe even some scary spinach.  What's the old saying. what doesn't kill you makes you stronger? I don't think spinach is off limits except for these  runs of this identified bagged brands. Where's Popeye when you need him?  

For those who like to keep up with the latest food warnings, Agriculture Canada issues bulletins at:

http://www.inspection.gc.ca/english/cor ... toce.shtml

edited to change specific brand of bagged spinach to various brands of bagged spinach to conform to bulletin at link

skdadl

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« Reply #18 on: September 18, 2006, 04:59:19 AM »
Well, but spinach itself isn't the point, or at least it has never been my point.

The worry is factory-farming methods, which are more likely to lead to these problems than were older forms of farming, and then there are certain kinds of crops that are more susceptible than others -- ie, some can be cleaned, but some can't. Squash or apples or turnips can be scrubbed or peeled; spinach and sprouts can't be.

If a local water supply becomes infected -- as at Walkerton, eg, where a large livestock farm of some kind was the source of seepage into the system -- then other, crop-growing fields stand to be infected (as well as the people drinking the water). I know that there was an immediate problem of irresponsibility at Walkerton, but I also think that there is a deeper, ongoing problem with our use of land. The problem is what we are doing to our soil and our water.

arborman

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« Reply #19 on: September 18, 2006, 05:09:17 PM »
It's a problem, for sure.  Our factory farming system turns and bites us more often all the time.

That being said, I don't know that this incident was a result of the farming methods - I thought it was the packaging process that did it.

CBC this morning said that the FDA is advising people not to eat spinach, at all, until the problem is addressed.

I noticed at Super-Valu (a grocery store out west here) that they were selling massive tubs of packaged USian spinach for really cheap (like $3).  Sneaky bastards.  Won't they be liable if someone gets sick?

The really sad thing is that things like this can devastate farmers, if the price collapses and nobody's buying.  Where do we grow spinach in Canada anyways?
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deBeauxOs

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« Reply #20 on: September 18, 2006, 05:54:56 PM »
Quote from: arborman
... Where do we grow spinach in Canada anyways?
Just about anywhere, since it can be grown in hothouses.  But field spinach - organic or not - has to be grown in the warmer seasons, thus late spring to early fall.  In Ottawa, the local spinach crop is abundant and available at the many farmer's markets.

fern hill

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« Reply #21 on: September 18, 2006, 06:48:49 PM »
For those within range of a PBS station, the News Hour is going to cover this story, as they say, 'later in the program'.

James

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« Reply #22 on: September 18, 2006, 08:06:04 PM »
It has struck me that this is labelled as "organically grown " spinach. The intense production of any green leafy vegatable requires a lot of nitrogen. That nitrogen can come from either chemical fertilizers, such a ammonium nitrate or urea (yes, the stuff  it's easy to make bombs from), or, that being precluded in "organic" production, from manure ( yes, the stuff that e-coli proliferates in).

For my part, though I support organic production, in this instance I'd sooner take my chances with the "chemical".

I really wish that "GrantIR", the organic grower from babble was here to add his perspective on this.

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« Reply #23 on: September 18, 2006, 08:45:33 PM »
Quote from: James
It has struck me that this is labelled as "organically grown " spinach. The intense production of any green leafy vegatable requires a lot of nitrogen. That nitrogen can come from either chemical fertilizers, such a ammonium nitrate or urea (yes, the stuff  it's easy to make bombs from), or, that being precluded in "organic" production, from manure ( yes, the stuff that e-coli proliferates in).

For my part, though I support organic production, in this instance I'd sooner take my chances with the "chemical".

I really wish that "GrantIR", the organic grower from babble was here to add his perspective on this.


I wonder if it's possible for the manure to be, in effect, pasteurized- for it to be heated to a temperature that would kill the bacteria before it's applied to the fields. Of course, there might be downsides to this as well, since this would kill not only E. coli but other bacteria, some of which might facilitate the breakdown of the manure and/or the absorption by the plants of the nutrients.
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deBeauxOs

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« Reply #24 on: September 18, 2006, 09:16:07 PM »
Cynic that I am, I find it interesting that this should happen just as Walmart is becoming a major supplier of organic food items.  
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...large companies have tried to use their muscle in Washington to their advantage. Last fall, the Organic Trade Assn., which represents corporations like Kraft, Dole, and Dean Foods, lobbied to attach a rider to the 2006 Agricultural Appropriations Bill that would weaken the nation's organic food standards by allowing certain synthetic food substances in the preparation, processing, and packaging of organic foods. That sparked outrage from organic activists. Nevertheless, the bill passed into law in November, and the new standards will go into effect later this year.
Coincidence or not?

 :twisted:

James

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« Reply #25 on: September 18, 2006, 09:17:30 PM »
I honestly don't know, A204. I do have an agriculturl background and a scientific bent; but the details of this are beyond me. GrantIR, who was once a regular babbler is both an environmentalist and a seemingly well informed organic grower.

Your question about "pasteurizing" manure ? I think that is unlikely to be feasable. The nutrient per centage in manure's is quite low; well below that in commerxial chemical fertilizers. It takes a lot of quantity. The practice in the "old days" when I was growing up, was to spread it on the fields early in the fall, when the sun's rays could have lotts of time to disinfect, th4\en phough it down into the soil early in the spring, well before planting, well before it could come into contact with any growing leaves.

I doubt that today's high intensity prosuxtion methods allow for that sort of safety margin.  Funny thing is; in those days, we weren't even thinking about food safety. It was just the "right" way to do things.

k'in

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« Reply #26 on: September 18, 2006, 10:29:34 PM »
I was searching around (unsucessfully) for more information about the huge greenhouses that are sprouting up in Essex County, Ontario.  I came across the following article about farming in Cuba.  It's not 100% positive about the authoritarianism of Castro's regime, but I found it quite interesting about how a mostly "closed" economy is producing nutritious food.  This could also go in the "slow food" thread.

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Now, just by looking across the table, I saw that Fernando Funes had since gained the twenty pounds back. In fact, he had a little paunch, as do many Cuban men of a certain age. What happened was simple, it unexpected. Cuba had learned to stop exporting sugar and instead started growing its own food again, growing it on small private farms and thousands of pocket-sized urban market gardens - and, lacking chemicals and fertilizers, much of that food became de facto organic. Somehow, the combination worked. Cubans have as much food as they did before the Soviet Union collapsed. They’re still short of meat, and the milk supply remains a real problem, but their caloric intake has returned to normal - they’ve gotten that meal back.

In so doing they have created what may be the world’s largest working model of a semi-sustainable agriculture, one that doesn’t rely nearly as heavily as the rest of the world does on oil, on chemicals, on shipping vast quantities of food back and forth. They import some of their food from abroad - a certain amount of rice from Vietnam, even some apples and beef and such from the United States. But mostly they grow their own, and with less ecological disruption than in most places. In recent years organic farmers have visited the island in increasing numbers and celebrated its accomplishment. As early as 1999 the Swedish parliament awarded the Organic Farming Group its Right Livelihood Award, often styled the “alternative Nobel", and Peter Rosset, the former executive director of the American advocacy group Food First, heralded the “potentially enormous implications” of Cuba’s new agricultural system.

The American model of agriculture is pretty much what people mean when they talk about the Green Revolution: high-yielding crop varieties, planted in large monocultures, bathed in the nurturing flow of petrochemicals, often supported by government subsidy, designed to offer low-priced food in sufficient quantity to feed billions. Despite its friendly moniker, many environmentalists and development activists around the planet have grown to despair about everything the Green Revolution stands for. Like Pretty, they propose a lowercase greener counterrevolution: endlessly diverse, employing the insights of ecology instead of the brute force of chemistry, designed to feed people but also keep them on the land. And they have some allies even in the rich countries - that’s who fills the stalls at the farmers’ markets blooming across North America.

The next few decades may be about answering that question. It’s already been engaged in Europe, where people are really debating subsidies for small farmers, and whether or not they want the next, genetically modified, stage of the Green Revolution, and how much it’s worth paying for Slow Food. It’s been engaged in parts of the Third World, where in India peasants threw out the country’s most aggressive free-marketeers in the last election, sensing that the shape of their lives was under assault.





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James

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« Reply #27 on: September 19, 2006, 11:06:38 AM »
Quote from: k'in
I was searching around (unsucessfully) for more information about the huge greenhouses that are sprouting up in Essex County, Ontario.


I know of no greenhouses here that produce spinach. It simply doesn't make economic sense to grow what is, by definition a "single level" crop in expensensive structures that are 6 - 10 metres high. Pretty much exclusively tomatoes, cukes and ornamentals. Apparently more than half of all North American spinach production is from Monterrey County, California.

We had a nice spinach salad last night without worry; knowing it was grown right here in a field in Essex County.

deBeauxOs

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« Reply #28 on: September 19, 2006, 11:20:35 AM »
Quote from: James
I know of no greenhouses here that produce spinach. It simply doesn't make economic sense to grow what is, by definition a "single level" crop in expensensive structures that are 6 - 10 metres high.
 Possibly, but  spinach can be grown in hothouses.  Recently, a local company has started growing hydroponic tomatoes in hot-houses year-round, supplementing the heat and sunlight required when it is not naturally available.  Competitive price with the ones trucked in from the southern US, and tastier, too.

skdadl

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« Reply #29 on: September 21, 2006, 10:53:10 AM »
I hate to say I told you so ...

Well, actually, no, I don't. I love it. Everyone always loves it:

Quote
Indeed, this epidemic, which has infected more than 100 people and resulted in at least one death, probably has little do with the folks who grow and package your greens. The detective trail ultimately leads back to a seemingly unrelated food industry — beef and dairy cattle.

First, some basic facts about this usually harmless bacterium: E. coli is abundant in the digestive systems of healthy cattle and humans, and if your potato salad happened to be carrying the average E. coli, the acid in your gut is usually enough to kill it.

But the villain in this outbreak, E. coli O157:H7, is far scarier, at least for humans. Your stomach juices are not strong enough to kill this acid-loving bacterium, which is why it’s more likely than other members of the E. coli family to produce abdominal cramps, diarrhea, fever and, in rare cases, fatal kidney failure.

Where does this particularly virulent strain come from? It’s not found in the intestinal tracts of cattle raised on their natural diet of grass, hay and other fibrous forage. No, O157 thrives in a new — that is, recent in the history of animal diets — biological niche: the unnaturally acidic stomachs of beef and dairy cattle fed on grain, the typical ration on most industrial farms. It’s the infected manure from these grain-fed cattle that contaminates the groundwater and spreads the bacteria to produce, like spinach, growing on neighboring farms.

 

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