What's happening to our produce?

  • Thread starter Evo
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  • #1
Evo
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Ok, first the spinach e-coli, then the organic carrot juice botulism that left several people paralyzed last month, now tomatoes with salmonella.

This should all be avoidable. Are too many shortcuts to save money being taken to save a buck and putting us at risk? The thought of eating a fresh salad shouldn't strike terror in my heart.

Salmonella linked to restaurant tomatoes
November 3, 2006 03:52:55 PM PST

Contaminated fresh tomatoes served in restaurants were the cause of a recent salmonella outbreak that sickened dozens of people in 21 states, health officials said Friday.

The outbreak, now over, sickened at least 183 people, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There were no reports of deaths, although 22 people were hospitalized. Interviews with victims, including detailed surveys of what they had eaten and where before falling sick, led investigators to suspect restaurant tomatoes as the cause.

http://health.yahoo.com/news/168469
 

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  • #2
Moonbear
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I didn't even hear about the carrot juice one! :eek: Somehow I doubt tomatoes in restaurants are going to be organic, unless it's a really upscale restaurant specifically catering to customers desiring organic foods, so it sounds like this time it won't be organic farming to blame.
 
  • #3
Ivan Seeking
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The last that I heard was that pigs were responsible for the spinach problem. A bunch got loose in the field.
 
  • #6
Maybe people are just getting concerned with health more now so they're looking for it.
 
  • #7
Evo said:
Ok, first the spinach e-coli, then the organic carrot juice botulism that left several people paralyzed last month, now tomatoes with salmonella.
How much is a change in news reporting and how much an actual change in the incidence? Even if you dug up the actual CDC (or FDA?) numbers on everything reported to them, I'm certain you'd see a very marked increase after a highly publicized case. Add in the extra layer of the news media playing to type, and I'd be willing to bet there's actually been a slight decrease in the number of underlying incidents over the past few months from increased awareness among produce workers.

Any real systemic change is going to take place over the course of years, not months or weeks.
 
  • #8
Moonbear
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Ivan Seeking said:
The last that I heard was that pigs were responsible for the spinach problem. A bunch got loose in the field.
Thanks, I hadn't heard the follow-up explanation.

But, geez, how long did it take them to figure that out? If you have an E. coli outbreak on a farm, and you know you had pigs running around your fields (hard not to notice if they trampled fences that you had to pay to repair), why on earth did it take so long to put two-and-two together?!
 
  • #9
turbo
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Perhaps there is less contamination in our food supply than, say, 20 years ago, but the current centralization of production, processing, and distribution makes it easier to track contamination back through that chain to the source. Also, the information age makes it possible to spot outbreaks and correlate them. Just a thought.
 
  • #10
Moonbear
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turbo-1 said:
Perhaps there is less contamination in our food supply than, say, 20 years ago, but the current centralization of production, processing, and distribution makes it easier to track contamination back through that chain to the source. Also, the information age makes it possible to spot outbreaks and correlate them. Just a thought.
I think that's a big part of it. So is the fact that it has gotten rare enough that people notice the symptoms as something especially unusual to report. If one were more frequently exposed to food contaminants, the occassional bout of diarrhea was likely just dismissed as "something I ate didn't agree with me" and unreported, so that only the handful of cases that led to hospitalization ever got reported. And, before every local news story was broadcast nationally on the internet, other than those reading the local paper, who would even know that 4 people were hospitalized in some little town in the middle of nowhere with "food poisoning."
 
  • #11
Evo
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turbo-1 said:
Perhaps there is less contamination in our food supply than, say, 20 years ago, but the current centralization of production, processing, and distribution makes it easier to track contamination back through that chain to the source. Also, the information age makes it possible to spot outbreaks and correlate them. Just a thought.
Yes, that would sound right.

I remember a few years ago I would stop and get a salad from the salad bar at the grocery store on the way home from work at least once a week. I would end up with diarrhea and vomiting that night. It took a few times to make the connection.

Most cases never get reported, or aren't reported in large enough quantities to get noticed. Now I am becoming wary of eating anything "fresh" that I haven't grown and prepared myself. :frown:
 
  • #12
turbo
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Salad bars are especially bad because once the food has been handled, processed, and exposed to the air, it is contaminated with bacteria, which start to grow very quickly due to the lack of adequate refrigeration. Ingredients that are not big sellers may have been sitting out there for hours before you select them and add them to your dish.

Another thing: let's say a green pepper starts to spoil, and gets a noticeable soft spot. What are the odds that the produce manager will let his staff throw it away when they could easily cut out the soft spot and slice the rest for the salad bar? Produce managers are generally rewarded for frugality and penalized for waste, so I wouldn't eat salad from a salad bar in a produce department on a bet.
 
  • #13
Moonbear
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turbo-1 said:
Salad bars are especially bad because once the food has been handled, processed, and exposed to the air, it is contaminated with bacteria, which start to grow very quickly due to the lack of adequate refrigeration. Ingredients that are not big sellers may have been sitting out there for hours before you select them and add them to your dish.
Not to mention all the other people who have gone through the salad bar ahead of you and touched the food, or touched the end of the tongs that then touches the food. And, just the thought that the glass at the front of the salad bar is called a "sneeze guard" is pretty scary, especially when you realize those little munchkins with their parents that always have runny, sneezy noses are not taller than the sneeze guard! :yuck:

Another thing: let's say a green pepper starts to spoil, and gets a noticeable soft spot. What are the odds that the produce manager will let his staff throw it away when they could easily cut out the soft spot and slice the rest for the salad bar? Produce managers are generally rewarded for frugality and penalized for waste, so I wouldn't eat salad from a salad bar in a produce department on a bet.
Me neither. I'm pretty suspicious of those in the grocery store, for that very same reason. It's an easy way to sell produce that is beginning to spoil. The only time I'll get something from a grocery store salad bar is if I want a fresh vegetable to cook for dinner in just a single serving (i.e., I don't want a whole bunch of broccoli that would last 4 or 5 meals, just enough fresh for one meal for me). It's more expensive by the pound, but when I'd otherwise waste the rest anyway, and I'm going to cook it, then it's worth doing. I don't do that very often though.
 
  • #14
Danger
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It's just Nature's way of pointing out that we strict carnivores are more suitable for survival than weed-eaters. Just try to put a ********* broccoli on my plate... :grumpy:
 
  • #15
Astronuc
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Salmonella is inherently part of the environment. It would seem a little preventitive maintenance is in order.

http://www.time.com/time/business/article/0,8599,1607666,00.html [Broken]

(OMAHA, Neb.) — ConAgra Foods said Thursday that moisture from a leaky roof and faulty sprinkler was the source of the salmonella bacteria that contaminated peanut butter at its Georgia plant last year, sickening more than 400 people nationwide.

The Omaha-based company conducted a nearly two-month investigation into the contamination and pledged to ensure that Peter Pan peanut butter is safe when it returns to stores in mid-July. "Consumer safety and health is our top priority," ConAgra spokeswoman Stephanie Childs said. "We plan to do our best to regain consumer trust once Peter Pan returns to stores."

Childs said the company traced the salmonella outbreak to three problems at its Sylvester, Ga., plant last August. The plant's roof leaked during a rainstorm, and the sprinkler system went off twice because of a faulty sprinkler, which was repaired.

The moisture from those three events mixed with dormant salmonella bacteria in the plant that Childs said likely came from raw peanuts and peanut dust.

She said the plant was cleaned thoroughly after the roof leak and sprinkler problem, but the salmonella remained and somehow came in contact with peanut butter before it was packaged.

. . . . continued
 
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  • #16
JasonRox
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Salad bars are especially bad because once the food has been handled, processed, and exposed to the air, it is contaminated with bacteria, which start to grow very quickly due to the lack of adequate refrigeration. Ingredients that are not big sellers may have been sitting out there for hours before you select them and add them to your dish.

Another thing: let's say a green pepper starts to spoil, and gets a noticeable soft spot. What are the odds that the produce manager will let his staff throw it away when they could easily cut out the soft spot and slice the rest for the salad bar? Produce managers are generally rewarded for frugality and penalized for waste, so I wouldn't eat salad from a salad bar in a produce department on a bet.
That's unfortunate.

I once worked for a ship delivery company. Delivers groceries on deck of a ship. And we had to check our produce practically one by one. Even if they bought a whole case, we had to open the case on the top, and check and then open the case on the bottom and check.

They never do that on the grocery store I'm at. Everything goes on the shelf no matter what. We had a bad batch of strawberries, and it still went out. :grumpy: It was BBBBAAAADDDDD!!!
 
  • #17
Astronuc
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They never do that on the grocery store I'm at. Everything goes on the shelf no matter what. We had a bad batch of strawberries, and it still went out. :grumpy: It was BBBBAAAADDDDD!!!
I worked in a dairy section where I stocked the shelves (refrigerated dairy case). I was expected to leave dairy products (including eggs) out beyond the expiration date. I was told not to put fresh products out until most of the old stuff was gone - so fresh stuff would sit in the back refrigerated area until the store sold as much as possible of the older product. One time, I had to retrieve the fresh product that I had put on the shelves of the dairy case. I did not like doing that. :grumpy:
 
  • #18
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You would think a big company like that would do a little maintenance.

I rember back in the 90's when ice cream was contaminated with Salmonella.
It turned out that the tanker truck that hauled the ice cream mix had previously carried a load of unpasturized liquid eggs.:rolleyes:
 
  • #19
Ivan Seeking
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I have been in more food processing plants than I care to remember. Some are immaculate and a few are down right terrifying, but all in all I would have to say that most are pretty good. In fact I have often been impressed at the level of attention given to issues of processing time, purity, cleanliness, and sterility. For example, I was once nearly thrown out of a Frito plant because I took a Rolaid out of my pocket while in a food area. The way that the operations manager reacted, one would think that I had poured gasoline on the potato chips.

I think the scariest places are chicken processing plants. They live in morbid fear of listeria outbreaks, but the precautions taken to prevent this are admirable. The entire factory is constantly sterilized with disinfectant. And there is always a Ph.D. running around and collecting samples, swabbing surfaces for cultures, and checking the processes.

I worry much more about imported food than I do those made or gown in the USA. However, from what I have seen, not much has been done to protect the food supply from terrorism. I know of places where anyone could gain access to tanker cars full of vegetable oil or other food products.
 
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