Over 400 people are sickened by eating food, salad wraps and other items that contain fresh (raw ) 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 due to the flour (already recalled) or eggs (salmonella) in the mix. Why have things like fresh vegetables and flour suddenly become a potential health threat?
Nobody 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 vegetables or prepared foods which contain them such as salads, tacos, wraps etc. Others got sick from raw batter and some fruits. Please be aware that this was not just your average case of food poisoning due to 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 may be thinking this has to do with home cooks and restaurant workers not washing fresh veggies before using them in something like a salad, sandwich or wrap. Sadly, that has not been the issue. Dirt and external contaminates like pesticides could be washed off vegetables. Washing will do nothing for veggies 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 got 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 title) says,”Do not drink the water south of the border.” Why? Since the water supply in a number of these poor countries is dangerously contaminated with all kinds 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 simple fact is proven by the regular contamination of seawater off San Diego beaches which is sometimes so contaminated with Mexican sewage that swimming is unsafe.
Oftentimes the identical freshwater that’s badly contaminated with sewage is used for drinking and washing clothes. Since this has gone on for so long, the people in these areas have built up immunities to the majority of the contaminates. However, they stay in their bodies. Sometimes growers do not offer any or proper portable restroom 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 employees make physical contact with food through touch or sweat.
Dangerous bacteria are sucked up into crops through the water they absorb from the ground. That type of contamination cannot be washed out; it is in the food. The exact same is true if bacteria gets into processed foods through carelessness. Testing helps with processing facilities, but it is usually too late to grab all of the tainted food products in time to keep everybody safe. Last year uncooked vegetables and a fresh fruit produced one in six people in the USA and Canada sick. Far more than became sick due to undercooked or tainted beef, chicken, pork or fish. We don’t have the immunities that the pickers and food workers have to fight off dangerous contaminants. So what can be done?
There are a number of things you can do to protect yourself and your loved ones from these dangers. 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 benefit of microwaving, but it’s worked for me and my family for years.
Fruits, well I can only recommend that you purchase veggies and fruit grown in the USA. There are also many ways to cook fruit and still retain its flavor and health benefits. Cook meats and eggs thoroughly and avoid unpasteurized milk and cheeses. Beware of meats or seafood processed and produced in different countries.