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It’s Not About the Sprouts

Opinion

“Of course we are challenging nature itself, and, it hits back … We have to accept that it’s much stronger than we are.”
- Werner Herzog (German Filmmaker on filming of Fitzcarraldo)

In Berlin, where I live, the evidence and fear are everywhere. It’s the talk of the town. Our local beer garden has stopped serving salads, with our waitress apologizing profusely for the “E-Ha-E-Ce Ausbruch.” My grocer has placed several notices by the supposedly offending produce, lettuces, tomatoes, cucumbers and sprouts, indicating the risk in eating such produce. And at Berlin’s famed market at Winterfeldt Platz, piles of vegetables are rotting in the sun as produce dealers give exasperated sighs and lengthy explanations as to the source of their goods.  And in a bit of gallows humor, a friend has been gloating that he can finally eat all the sausages he wants, because vegetables are going to kill him.

German newspapers have tried to keep up with the rumor, innuendo, and the latest update on the enterohaemorrhagic E. coli (“EHEC”). Seven killed. Nine killed. Five hundred infected. First Swedish death. Nineteen killed, two thousand affected. Russia ban on all EU produce. 4 Americans contract EHEC. Thirty-one deaths.  First it was lettuce, tomatoes and cucumbers. Then it was Spanish cucumbers from Almería and Málaga. Then it was organic Spanish cucumbers. Then bean sprouts from a farm in Lower Saxony. It’s a cucumber found in a compost bin in Madgeburg. It’s sprouts again – but organic bean sprouts. Is it an old strain? A new strain? Mutant strain? Is it from over-use of antibiotics? Is it pesticides? Is it from cows? From humans? Is it because of genetically modified foods?

In Germany, unless you have been hiding under a rock, you know there has been an epidemic of food-borne illnesses caused by Escherichia coli (E. coli) O104:H4, the worst being the life-threatening hemolytic uremic syndrome (or HUS), which compromises kidney functionality.

The source has finally been found, after 5 weeks since the first cases were reported in Hamburg and the northern-German states of Saxony and Schleswig-Holstein. There have been lots of suspects, including that of Spanish cucumbers, but until Friday, there had been no definitive evidence as to the exact food source of the outbreak. And even as late as June 6, one German health official admitted, “…it is possible we shall never be able to identify the source (of the E. coli).” [1]

Of course this is not for lack of trying. Since the first case came to German public health officials’ attention on May 2, there has been a frenzied search by German health authorities, hospitals, epidemiologists and scientists across the Germany and the European Union to find the smoking gun. While many countries, most notably the US, have had E. coli scares and outbreaks before, the World Health Organization has even admitted that this particular strain has never been recorded before. And some have even suggested that the scope and the breadth of this particular outbreak may be unprecedented in Europe.

But the blame game has already begun. German citizens are blaming the Robert Koch Institute (the German equivalent to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control), local health authorities, German Ministry of Health (“Bundesministerium für Gesundheit”) and the German Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Consumer Protection (“Bundesministerium für Ernährung, Landwirtschaft und Verbraucherschutz”). German government has blamed Spanish agricultural practices. Spanish government blames Germany’s poor crisis management. France and other member states have blamed Germany and Spain for lack of transparency. Vegetable farmers accuse health officials for libel and lost revenue. US’s CDC criticized the German antibiotic therapies for E. Coli as a catalyst for HUS.

And sadly, after this outbreak comes to an end, we may be none the wiser.

Everyone seems to be missing the point. What is happening here in Germany can and will happen in other places. This is not just about sprouts. Or Spanish farmers. Or government agencies, Or food processors. The whole food system has to be examined and reformed. If there is anything we can learn from this tragedy is that food systems are no longer local. We have apples from South America; we have shrimp from Vietnam; we have cheese from France. There is no ONE global agency responsible or accountable for the safety of our food supplies. We are completely dependent upon state and local entities to safeguard our food system, but they are riddled with holes: overlapping responsibilities, non-coordination across agencies, agency infighting, competing public and corporate interests, poor enforcement, and no money. No political will. And that is just the tip of the iceberg.[2,3]

If anger and indignation were solutions, I’d be a policy genius. Unfortunately, the real world doesn’t work that way. I do have some concrete suggestions that might prevent future tragedies like this from happening.

1.Countries need to give food safety and consumer agencies the necessary enforcement power to oversee food production at ALL levels – from farm to fork. This means more money, more agents, more inspections, because right now, these agencies have too little to work with.[4]  This is especially true in the US, China and other developing nations with large agricultural trade interests (Brazil, Argentina, Uganda, Morocco, etc.).

2.There is need for an international agency or consensus on food safety standards with enforcement power. Food distribution chains have become global, however, the safeguards needed to oversee them have not. The World Health Organization and the International Organization for Standardization have given guidelines to food safety, however they are basic in nature and are NOT enforceable. An international agency with enforcement power could monitor food safety issues across borders, instead of depending upon individual countries to safeguard their food supply. Countries have their own political interests in defending their food products – consumers across the world don’t.

3.There needs to be more transparency in the food system. Period. Consumers should know where their food comes from, how it was produced, and in whose hands it was passed through before it gets to their table. If that means a label, sign or an independent 3rd party inspection, then so be it. Currently, consumers have very little information regarding the pathway from farm to plate (unless they grow or slaughter or gather your own food). In the end, it is the consumer that has to bear the consequences for faulty food safety practices – why shouldn’t they be the first to know where their food comes from?

Foodborne illnesses are entirely preventable. Human nature, unfortunately, is not. Let’s stop the blame game. Blame doesn’t save lives. Action and accountability do. Let’s try not to screw it up this time.

[1]   See EU Ministers to meet on E. Coli Outbreak, Al Jazeera English, 7 June , 2011.

[2]  This is not to suggest that it is all government’s fault. Corporations, agri-business, and multi-nationals are also to blame. But we also have to look at ourselves. Our need for cheap, fast and convenient food has only accelerated a series of agricultural and food practices that contribute to poor food habits – not just foodborne illnesses, but also obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, cancer – the list goes on and on.

[3]  And no, this is just not only in the US. EU and EC agencies are just as problematic. Currently the EU Minister of Agriculture is responsible for both safeguarding the agricultural practices as well as promoting their interests in world trade. (For a while there, the EU Agricultural Minister was also a corporate farm owner…conflict of interest?) Many other countries have the same set of conflicts of interests regarding food, agriculture and consumer safety.

[4]  Currently in the US, Congress is determining the budget for fiscal year 2012. The Food Safety Modernization Act, which was passed with bi-partisan support last year, is getting the ax. The FSMA is the first major reform of food safety practices since the 1920′s and gives the FDA power to inspect, fine, suspend and recall foreign and domestic food and food facilities that do not meet safety standards. (See my blog post here regarding the history of food safety and the Food Safety Modernization Act.)

————————

Evelyn J. Kim lives in Berlin and Copenhagen, and writes for the food and sustainability blog, Edo Ergo Sum (www.edo-ergo-sum.com).

© Food Safety News
  • Doc Mudd

    ** “And sadly, after this outbreak comes to an end, we may be none the wiser.” **
    Now, that’s a sad truth…embedded within an article wonderfully illustrating that very fact — foodie activists are proudly “none the wiser”…and apparently never will be.
    Well, let’s see, the outbreak has finally been blamed on organic sprouts grown locally, on a quaint little ol’ farm right there in Germany. But the author’s “anger and indignation” is skillfully misdirected at “government…corporations, agri-business, and multi-nationals”? Guess we’re “none the wiser” that evil big-ag had no hand in this fatal food poisoning incident, “none the wiser” whatsoever.
    The author asserts: “We are completely dependent upon state and local entities to safeguard our food system…” when, in fact with outbreaks from local organic foods, like sprouts in this instance, we are “completely dependent upon” the grower to handle manure safely and not mix it with the food he/she is selling us. We remain “none the wiser” that the little local organic producer operates independently indulging his/her singular notions of food production and food safety – that notional little guy can sicken and kill you just a easily as a multi-national, maybe easier.
    The author’s concluding lesson after more than 30 people die from eating local organic sprouts: “An international agency with enforcement power could monitor food safety issues across borders”! Apparently, she recommends placing small, local producers under the scrutiny and jurisdiction of an “international agency” to closely oversee their food safety practices.
    Heh, heh, I guess she missed the little dustup here in the states over FSMA, where the righteous “small producers” emitted such a breathtaking stink they were finally all exempted from the legislation. We are completely at their mercy, just like the Germans were with the sprouts farmer. So, regulating safe production practices has been attempted and failed with the local organic producers, but the author remains steadfastly “none the wiser”.
    If there’s a lesson to be learned from the tragic food poisoning event in Germany, it is that local organic growers can kill a lot of their neighbors with E. coli from fecal matter mixed with the food they sell. None of us can remain blissfully “none the wiser” on that salient point of fact. If they are to be trusted and taken seriously by consumers, local organic producers need to pull their heads out of the organic fertilizer and wise up…and stop sickening and killing their customers.

  • ICBM

    It’s plain to see the Muddite’s “lessons to be learned” are all about his own self-righteous little prejudicial knee-jerk reactions, that have been regularly on display in his role as a “comment troll” here at Food Safety News for some time now. Sad really.
    I should mention that for sprouting — home or commercial — the seed source is critical. This seems to be the case in Germany… Here’s another view of the dynamics of the outbreak –from Reuters:
    German officials see no E.coli fault at organic farm
    Sat Jun 11, 2011 2:56pm GMT
    By Brian Rohan
    BERLIN (Reuters) – Officials investigating an organic farm in northern Germany said on Saturday they do not expect to take legal action against it for causing an E.coli outbreak that has killed at least 31 people.
    Authorities link the epidemic, the deadliest in modern history, to contaminated bean sprouts and shoots grown at the farm that made their way to restaurants and kitchens across the country.
    “Everything we have looked into until now shows the farm was flawless,” said Gert Hahne, spokesman for the consumer protection office of Lower Saxony state. “It is hygienic and followed all the regulations.
    “No matter how you look at it we don’t see any fault with the farm or legal ground to hold them accountable,” he said by telephone. “You cannot punish someone for having bad luck.”
    However the farm has been shut down. Authorities say results of tests taken there have yet to place E.coli on site, but that some 500 samples are still being examined — including some from the farm’s seeds, which came from Europe and Asia.
    The German government had come under fire at home and around Europe for failing to pin down the cause of the month-long outbreak, which only on Friday was officially identified as having come from the bean sprouts.
    Scientists said then that traces of the deadly strain were detected in a packet of bean sprouts from the farm found in a family’s rubbish bin after two of the family members fell ill from eating them. The results were confirmed on Saturday.
    About a quarter of the near 3,000 people sick from E.coli have developed a severe complication from the bacteria called haemolytic uraemic syndrome, or HUS, which affects the blood, kidneys and nervous system.
    Authorities warn that the particularly virulent outbreak is still a threat, and the death toll may rise despite signs of a slowdown in new infections.
    Late on Friday, Health Minister Daniel Bahr responded to mounting criticism over the handling of the outbreak, telling broadcaster ZDF that information should have been shared sooner.
    Several scientists say the investigation should have focussed on bean sprouts earlier.
    (Editing by Mark Heinrich)
    [reuters]

  • L. Pasat

    It is also about incompetence! Trust me! 5 weeks of incompetece. We’ve heard about laws and food safety! We had to “kill” small producers all over EU,because the “new hyigiene package” in the EU obliged us to stop them. The “bio” and “organic” became something like a gold rule! What about manure, what about water used for cultivating vegetables? The sprouts are only the vehicle! What was behind this? And what about the risk communication, since Spain was accused, and then producers all over Europe suffered? Let me alone! I want more information about the SOURCE. What really did it happen? How the spread of a human strain was possible? Where did the human and the animal strain met? Where from the antimicrobial resistance appeared? Or the resistant strain appeared? …

  • Doc Mudd

    “You cannot punish someone for having bad luck.”
    Oh, OK then, it was just a little spell of “bad luck” down on the local organic farm, that’s all. All scrubbed clean now. Nothin’ to worry about ’till next time!
    Yeah, and the nearly 3000 folks who were severely sickened by organic sprouts were just experiencing a little touch of bad luck last month, too, eh?
    And the more than 30 who’ve died, well they ate organic food contaminated with fecal bacteria and had some really, really bad luck, I guess. Ah, but so what?
    Organic cheerleader ‘ICBM’ suggests it is just fine for organic consumers’ “luck” to royally suck so long as he isn’t the one who ends up waiting for dialysis or a kidney transplant (or winds up dead) out of the “unlucky” deal.
    Keep this pervasive callous attitude toward your family’s health in mind when strolling around your local farmers flea market or when picking up stuff at the local CSA. Cagy profiteers like ‘ICBM’ are only interested in your grocery money.
    Why would anyone purchase food for their family from some whacked-out dung-worshiping fanatic who takes your money and facetiously wishes you “good luck” with your purchase?
    Fecal contamination of organic food is never “bad luck” – it can only be poor planning, sloppy operations or simply a dangerous whacky manure-riddled ‘alternative’ food production system. Lethal food poisoning = bad management, certainly; bad luck, never.
    Caveat emptor, baby, caveat emptor.

  • Hythlonistes

    @Doc Mudd – prima facie, the only thing the German case proves is that it’s risky to cultivate bean sprouts, which are especially prone to bacterial contamination, whether they’re grown organically or industrially, in Germany or California. And really, that’s what this article is about. It’s not about organic farming. I know that’s a hobby-horse of yours, but it’s not what it’s about. It’s about the need to recognize that food supply chains have become irreversibly global, and thus food safety regulation ought to become global too. As ICBM points out, the seeds that this “quaint little ol’” German farm used were sourced internationally, from other parts of Europe and Asia, and it was the seeds that were most likely the source of the e.coli. THAT is why the author insists on a set of international norms for regulating food production, and an international agency for enforcing them. THAT is the point of her article. Do you disagree with that?
    And even if you do think this is all about organic farming, and think organic farming is just as dangerous as industrial agriculture, with its stellar food-safety track record (it’s industrialized husbandry, after all, that we have to thank for introducing virulent strains of e.coli into the food supply in the first place), why would you so snarkily dismiss the author’s proposal to regulate it more stringently?

  • IJP

    Am I missing something here? All this talk of international agencies, national organisations and global or local farming but no mention of the food company or companies. Surely, and I’m not suggesting the farmer doesn’t have a responsibility, if the food company had washed and sanitising the raw produce as I feel they should have then this terrible outbreak would not have happened.

  • José M. Carré

    I must say I agree on Doc Mudd’s comments at so many levels. Having a super-world agency of food safety does not solve anything.
    I think that this crisis will also put in perspective that organic farming can be just as bad as ordinary farming, when good farming practices are not put in place.
    But I do miss comments everywhere, reminding consumers of their responsibilities. It is so easy to put the blame on others and not consider our own actions. Blame the sprouts, blame the government, blame the farmer, blame retailers, etc.
    In this particular case, I am sure that none of the people that fell ill had taken the trouble of washing the sprouts with plenty of running tap water or keeping it under a hypochloride or vinegar solution for a few minutes. A simple hygiening measure like this would have gone a long way in preventing this crisis.

  • Doc Mudd

    Ah, yet another fine example of an organic activist steadfastly remaining “none the wiser”…or is it just selective memory?
    Recall early in the outbreak the Spanish cucumbers (organically grown, of course) were found to be slathered with E. coli from feces of some sort, or other. Just didn’t happen (this time) to be the specific strain cultured from the sick, dead and dying patients. But fecal contamination with a potentially virulent strain of E. coli, all the same. Another deadly outbreak waiting to happen.
    http://www.euronews.net/2011/05/27/german-e-coli-linked-to-spanish-cucumbers/
    And E. coli isn’t the only dangerous fecal pathogen generously inoculated onto your organic food, of course, there’s salmonella to consider…
    http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2010/05/organicgirl-recalls-spinach-for-salmonella/
    http://archive.newsmax.com/archives/articles/2004/6/14/140637.shtml
    …and toxoplasma…
    http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2011/04/report-ranks-10-riskiest-food-pathogen-combinations/
    Mix manure with vegetables, as organic philosophy requires and you produce food smeared with fecal creepy crawlers. Real nice, huh?
    http://www.solvita.com/pdf-files/Mukherjee-2004.pdf
    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/04/dining/04cert.html
    http://www.skepdic.com/organic.html
    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ac/20110103/bs_ac/7509860_organic_foods_recalled_twice_in_a_week_what_gives

  • Michael Bulger

    “Mudd” needs to work a little harder on separating the issue of manure use and organic agriculture. It only exasperates the image of the “Mudd” internet persona as a less-than-knowledgable contributor.
    “Mudd” has been informed that organic production is not the sole providence of manure use, nor is it less regulated therein as compared to conventional. (Quite the opposite.)
    It becomes clear that “Mudd” cares more about bashing organic agriculture than “Mudd” does about promoting food safety. What can be frustrating is that this person uses tragedy, such as the one unfolding in Germany, as a platform for promoting their own opinions. “Mudd” chooses to do this despite being confronted with with the realities surrounding manure use.
    Bring on the personal attacks, Mudd. They are meaningless when written by one who places an agenda before the facts.

  • ICBM

    Sorry Mudd — projecting your ongoing fecal obsessions onto organic farming just won’t wash.
    The fact is that organic farmers are the ONLY growers PROHIBITED from using fresh manure on or crops — while conventional (ie. non-organic) growers can and do use it regularly with no such prohibitions…
    Here’s the composting rules spelled out in the National Organic Program:
    http://www.ams.usda.gov/AMSv1.0/getfile?dDocName=STELPRDC5087120

  • ICBM

    Hmmm… typical addled Mudddiness, skewing the discussion with his Ever-Present Anti-Organic rants. Despite the muddiferous obfuscation, the Fact is the sprout farm in question is NOT being legally targeted by authorities — because they have no case. The only implications have come from epidemiologists who could only even remotely link sprout consumption to under 25% of the victims.
    Further, this appears to be a non-STEC form of E.coli whose reservoir is human not cows — so their goes the latest Mudddite organic-farmers-use-manure rant — which is untrue anyway — as they’re the only growers prohibited from using fresh manure — or municipal waste sludge — yup — allowable in conventional ag for use on fruits and vegetables. Now There’s a widespread human E.coli source for you…
    From what is known at this point, the (human-spread) source the government authorities and epidemiologists (don’t) want to find could just as well be a genetically engineered pathogen that infected a lab worker or escaped from a bioweapons or biotech facility. Far-fetched? For a look into the brave new world of bioweapon experimentation going on all around us — here’s an independent watchdog project that had to close its doors 3 years ago due to lack of funding (there’s no plush government grants available for This kind of work to be sure) — but their research is still posted at:
    As for Mudd’s hobbyhorse obsession — targeting organic and local agriculture for all his perceived ills of the world — here’s some food for thought: One of the real coups of the big produce and agribusiness companies was to reduce the definition of “food safety” solely to microbial causes, while meanwhile much of the conventional (ie. non organic) food sitting on supermarket shelves is laced with varying amounts of poisonous pesticide residues that can bioaccumulate in our bodies.
    Random USDA testing even recently found 34 unauthorized pesticides just on the speciality crop herb cilantro.
    For a practical food guide go to:
    This is only the tip of the iceberg for the totality of toxic chemicals and biocides conventional growers are dependent on to produce our conventional food supply — and all with decades of well-documented negative environmental and health effects.

  • http://www.solvita.com/pdf-files/Mukherjee-2004.pdf Doc Mudd

    The flailing organic propagandists Bulger & Gilman continue to fling lame excuses against the wall and split hairs regarding the quasi-religious use of manure in elitist organic food production.
    They hint that the peculiar dung-pitching style of Neo-luddite organic farming magically prevents fecal organisms coming in contact with produce or with anything that may, in turn, come in contact with produce.
    But, dangerous coliform bacteria like E. coli & salmonella continue to turn up on organic produce – must be spontaneous generation, eh? Why not, the organic KoolAide makes you fools believe in delusions of “healthiness”, “good luck” and even vitalism, so why not microbes apprearing magically by spontaneous generation? (Geez, if you can make them magically appear, why can’t you just make them magically disappear, instead?)
    Heh, interesting honor code in your laughable “composting rules”. A superlative example of rules made to be broken and ignored by freethinking organic zealots in the privacy of their FSMA-exempt hobby farms.
    This code is all the more incriminating when the next organic fanatic screws up and poisons folks with their precious damned manure-laden produce; turns out they actually knew better, were told to do better and deliberately screwed up anyway. Thanks for the tip – this will come in handy during the penalty phase of food poisoning lawsuits.
    .
    Sappy self-centered organic apologists desperately groping for a break of “good luck” to make serious discussion of this latest organic food poisoning catastrophe go away.
    Yeah, and in the meantime, you and I should buy their over-priced food and cast our chances with “Lady Luck” to keep our families safe. Maybe the Germans just weren’t wearing their lucky underwear that day, eh? Damned careless of them.
    Blind faith, hope and luck – not exactly food safety strategies endorsed by science. But, screw science; that’s the point of organics, right?

  • Anthony Boutard

    As a certified organic farmer, I endorse a ban on the use of raw manure in any form of agriculture. Sloppy, careless use of raw manure puts at risk neighboring organic operations that operate conscientiously. Currently organic growers shoulder the cost of processing and the Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI) certification of manure. We have to invest in expensive chlorination systems to disinfect our irrigation water. Why shouldn’t conventional and “natural” farmers comply with the rigorous, science-based standards in the National Organic Program rules? It would level the playing field.
    A complete ban on manure use would present an interesting challenge to the confined animal feeding operations (CAFO’s) and battery hen operations. Banning the use of all manure in food production would leave the meat industry with a very large waste problem, and drive up the cost of industrially produced meat astronomically. The law of unintended consequences, a healthier nation eating less meat? The old scatophobe sounds like a vegan with a hidden agenda.
    Anthony Boutard
    Ayers Creek Farm

  • Hythlonistes

    @ Doc Mudd – I’ll reiterate – this isn’t about organics. It’s about regulation.
    Even the material you link to reinforce this point.
    For instance, from the Mukherjee et. al. study:
    “[T]he E. coli prevalence in certified organic produce was 4.3%, a level not statistically different from that in conventional samples” (pg.894).
    “The prevalence of Salmonella in organic fruits and vegetables found in the present study (which did not include alfalfa sprouts) was only 0.4%. Based on the absence of E. coli O157:H7 and the very low Salmonella prevalence, the assertion that organic produce has greater pathogen contamination does not seem to be supported” (pg.899).
    And again:
    “The results of the present study do not support allegations that organic produce poses a substantially greater risk of pathogen contamination than does conventional produce. However, the observation that the prevalence of E.coli was significantly higher in organic produce supports the idea that organic produce is more susceptible to fecal contamination. Our results also suggest that organic certification might further reduce the likelihood of fecal contamination in organic produce” (pg.900).
    Two things to note here. One, contrary to what you contend, according to this study there appears to be no statistically significant difference in terms of pathogenic contamination between organic and non-organic produce. Two, organic farms that were CERTIFIED had substantially lower bacterial contamination profiles than those that didn’t. If this study demonstrates anything, then, it’s that the issue is regulation, not organic vs. non-organic.
    This is from the NYTimes article:
    “Organics has grown from an $11 billion business in the United States in 2001 to one that now generates more than $20 billion in sales, so the stakes for farmers, processors and certifiers can be high. But the agency overseeing the certifying process has long been considered underfunded and understaffed. Critics have called the system dysfunctional” (pg.2).
    And this is due to a perverse incentives structure, where certifiers are paid by the very producers they certify. The result, not surprisingly, is that there have been a number of outbreaks traceable to organic producers who have been allowed to operate at sub-standard safely levels because of – wait for it – lax regulation. Once again, it’s not about organics, it’s about regulation.
    Compounding this problem, as Ms. Kim points out in her article, is that many producers today, including the little German farm that was the origin of this latest outbreak, both source and distribute globally. Thus Ms. Kim’s appeal for greater international regulatory cooperation, such that locally enforced standards conform to internationally agreed-upon norms. It’s the crux of her argument, and so far I’ve yet to see anything close to a compelling counter-argument to it anywhere in this comment thread.

  • Doc Mudd

    The complete and utter lack of concern or compassion by organic zealots for those food consumers sickened and those killed by tainted produce is stunning…but, sadly, entirely typical. We witnessed precisely this same ego-centric disregard for the safety of consumers and their families by self-styled “small producers” during the FSMA debate. And, that ugly behaviour was only reinforced when they were rewarded with the Tester amendment.
    With local, organic and “small farm” propagandists the discussion (when it isn’t a bashing rant against successful modern agriculture) is invariably about themselves, about hallucinatory nuances of their hypothetical “alternative agricultural practices” and, especially about the silly unfounded dreams, superstition and woo underpinning their giddy ‘earth mother’ sophistry.
    Of course, none of that amounts to diddly squat when, by the law of averages, harsh Reality (with a capital “R”) inevitably brings the real ‘Mother Nature’ to bear. And gullible, trusting, paying customers suffer the very real consequences.
    The hospitalized and the memorialized German food poisoning victims TRUSTED the producers and vendors with their food, just like the propagandists relentlessly instruct us to do. And, they were badly injured by their own blind trust. But in the aftermath, the discussion is all about meticulously deflecting any lingering trace of responsibility onto the imagined “bad luck” of the poor, misunderstood producer/vendor!!
    The better I get to “know my farmer” by their unfailingly selfish deflecting excuses here on FSN the more utterly disgusted and dismissive I become of these snakeoil peddling rascals. Just simply sickening. To hell with them and their dangerous pipedreams and their over-priced manure-laden fashion food.

  • dyouwyouk

    Doc Mudd,
    You sound like a very bitter man. What’s your agenda anyway?

  • ICBM

    Notice that when Muddd’s nasty little blamey discussion points/rants repeatedly get shot down because they can’t hold water — he plays the sympathy card — and most certainly in this arena he’s always more sympathetic than thou… because he says so, with big crocodile tears.
    However, these discussion pages are actually about Food Safety — or the lack of same — which time after time is brought to the fore by the induced illness of innocent victims trusting in our daily food supply. The repercussions are horrible for the victims — sickness, HUS, death– as well as their loved ones and the people who know them — and also for those trying to work toward a safer food system.
    And that work is what we discuss here. Of course there will be numerous points of contention, honest and otherwise, as to the nature of our food system and how to improve it. Doc’s ongoing knee-jerk reactions constantly turns this into mean-spirited attacks on organic and local as the source of society’s ills. Not surprisingly, a number of commenters beg to differ and point to the well-documented inherent dangers brought about by the industrialization of the bulk of our food supply.
    Depending how virulent the Mudddy attacks are that day, discussions can unfortunately get spun off into other realms. At root, however, all you have to do is read his screeds to see how the Mudman projects his own bile and deception — attributing them instead to the objects of his wrath.

  • Doc Mudd

    Good to see a dedicated Prince Charles sycophant finally acknowledge the existence, at least in general, of food poisoning victims (even if it did require a good cussing-out to extract it from him). Beyond generalities, Gilman, the specifics now stand at 35 dead, 100 requiring kidney transplants – all from eating local organic sprouts contaminated with fecal bacteria.
    Will intrepid organic zealots now set aside their dungforks and crowd in line to donate a kidney? That may well exceed any reasonable expectation of compassion on their part. But will they at least begin to incorporate scientific principles of food safety into their anti-technology faith-based agenda to safeguard our families…or will they remain steadfastly “none the wiser”? Time will tell.
    In the meantime, at the farmers market and at the CSA: caveat emptor, baby, caveat emptor!

  • ecofoodologist

    Get real Muddie, who pays you to sit around and blather from your Wal-Martized soapbox. In a Real world produce would come entirely from something more resembling organic practices. We are now dealing with the post-WWII concoction that has been lobbied in Congress for so long that we forget what Real is.
    Those who benefit most by the shouts, from your parochial understanding of the problem don’t collectively care about better food. Our 401k managers don’t pay them to! Step out of your FIOS fed dungeon and look at ethical farms. They look more like a less disturbed earth surface. It’s fun to spar with you, and you occasionally come up with a good zinger but who has time. ef

  • Doc Mudd

    OK, then, “none the wiser” it is! Keep dreamin’ and philosophizin’ girls.
    Reality only comes around to bite you once in a while – it was the Germans’ turn for a little “bad luck” this time, is all. The loopy organic hypothesis should never be paused or amended by a little collateral damage (36 dead now, but who’s counting?).
    Kumbuya, campers, kumbaya!

  • Food Safety Doc

    Lots of misinformation and misinterpretation here. Washing contaminated sprouts or other fruits/vegetables will not reliably remove food borne pathogens. Once contaminated they stay contaminated because many of the bacterial cells are not accessible to water or sanitizers. If we could wash them off the problem would be easily solved, but it is not.
    Sprouts, organic or conventional, can be grown safely. The US FDA has issued guidelines on how to do so and they work pretty well. But it costs money, time and attention. Many small producers feel they do not have the resources to comply with the guidelines. The guidelines include testing seed, treating seed with sanitizer before sprouting and then testing the spent water from each and every batch of sprouts for E. coil and other pathogens, before harvesting those sprouts. Only when the test results return and are negative for the pathogens are the sprouts released and sold. My guess is that the German sprout producer did not follow these procedures.