Special Report: Veggies Can Make You Sick

Many thanks to Jen Gray for her inspiring photo ...

Yesterday's Wall Street Journal included this eye-grabbing headline: "When Eating Your Vegetables Makes You Sick".

Vegetables? Make us sick? Oh great, just what maligned-broccoli needs!

But it's serious business. (Hmmm. Or is it? Keep reading.) Here's a summary of the story:
  • The good news is that Americans (sorry, rest of the world, no data cited ..) are eating more fruits and vegetables
    • In 1990, per capita consumption was 287 pounds per year, about 3/4 a pound a day
    • In 2003, it increased by 15+ percent to 332 pounds per year, about nine-tenths of a pound a day

  • The bad news is that fruits and vegetables are now responsible for more large-scale outbreaks of food-borne illnesses than meat, poultry or eggs due, it's said, to:
    • Centralization of produce distribution
    • Increased reliance on imports
    • Growing popularity of 'convenience' produce (think bags of spinach, pre-cut coleslaw, cantaloupe halves)
  • Examples cited included
    • E. coli infections from Dole pre-cut salads
    • Hepatitis A infections from Mexican onions
    • Salmonella from fresh tomatoes
  • Five items are especially problematic
    • Tomatoes (since salmonella can enter the tissue via the stem and skin cracks so washing doesn't help much)
    • Melons but especially cantaloupe (since bacteria from rainwater, birds sitting on them, etc can enter through cracks and crevices in the rind)
    • Lettuce
    • Sprouts
    • Green onions
  • Putting it all in perspective (disclaimer, this is my own AK angle and not included in the Wall Street story)
    • The study period reported 554 food-borne illness outbreaks affecting 28,000 people -- over 14 years
    • That's 40 outbreaks a year, affecting about 2000 people a year
    • That said, it does appear that produce-related instances are up almost 43% when consumption is up only the previously cited 15%
  • That said, what it's suggested we consumers can do to protect themselves (the AK view of these suggestions is that they are nothing new but good reminder precautions )
    • Separate fruits and vegetables from meat items right at the grocery -- in the cart, the checkout, the bags (now if only my local Schnucks grocery practiced this, just last night the pork tenderloin was bagged with some fresh apples)
    • Refrigerate cut, peeled or cooked fresh fruits or vegetables within two hours
    • Wash cutting boards, knives, peelers and other tools along with work surface before and After (AK: why before if done after the prior use?) with hot water and soap
    • Don't use the same cutting board for fruits/vegetables and meat without washing with hot water and soap in between (this is why I have, and regularly use, four cutting boards)
    • Cook or throw away fruits or vegetables that have touched raw meat, poultry, seafood or their juices
    • Remove bruised or damaged portions of fruits and vegetables before cooking and especially before eating raw
Source: Wall Street Journal, November 30, 2005,
"When Eating Vegetables Can Make You Sick" by Jane Zhang

2 comments:

This is an important issue, I'm glad you brought it up!

Ontario just destroyed its entire crop of bean sprouts because of salmonella. It was weird eating pad thai in a restaurant with no sprouts.

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