Make Our Food Safe
10/26/2011

'"Produce problems: How pigs, pollution and other people taint our fruits and veggies"

Huffington Post | Lynne Peeples

"Ashley Armstrong's parents haven't let her eat green salad in five years.

While other parents struggle to get assorted greens into their children's bellies, the Armstrongs have left salad off Ashley's plate since September 2006, when the E. coli from a bag of spinach nearly killed her. Then 2 years old, Ashley was left with just 10 percent kidney function.

'We were totally naive,' says her mother, Elizabeth, who now serves on the board of the Center for Foodborne Illness Research and Prevention, a public health advocacy group. 'We assumed that the food we bought at our grocery store was safe. We assumed that the FDA, or whomever, had checked to make sure it was safe. We've since found out that's not the case.'

Inspectors failed to pinpoint the exact source of the E. coli outbreak that killed three people, sickened 205 and cost the spinach industry $100 million. About a mile from one contaminated spinach field, however, they found a wide range of suspects: high levels of the bacterium in free-range angus cows and their dung, and its genetic match turned up in local feral pigs, soil and surface water.

'There were so many different possible sources that we couldn't say for sure how the spinach got contaminated,' Michele Jay-Russell, a food safety specialist at the University of California, Davis, told HuffPost. 'But it raised awareness that cattle and wildlife intruding into the field or waterways could be risks for moving pathogens into the produce environment...'"

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