Friday, September 22, 2006

I'm back, with words about Spinach

Now that I've refrained from posting long enough to lose all of my loyal readership to other, more interesting (and less static) blogs, I've decided to resume keeping track of my life online. This decision was influenced to a great extent by the recent unreliability of my computer(s), prompting me to choose methods of storing my thoughts that are less subject to destruction by water, short falls, or the whims of the technological gods.


For my last post of the Jewish year 5766, my thoughts on the recent e.coli breakout in prepackaged spinach, which I actually posted to a friend's blog; and an excerpt from the NYTimes article published today that basically stated my main points almost verbatim:

Don't blame the spinach! In fact, the American meat production industry, and by extension the consumers of the typical American diet, are the likely root cause of the rise of deadly bacteria like E. coli 0157:H7. In this country cows are raised in inhumane factory conditions, and the corn that they are fed (because corn is overproduced and government subsidized, not because corn is good for them) lowers the pH of their stomachs. This, in combination with the tons of antibiotics they are fed (25 million tons/yr for animals we eat, compared to 4 million tons/yr consumed by the American people) allows for the natural selection of supertoxic bugs that can live in acidic environments...i.e., get past *our* stomachs and wreak havoc on our intestines. See Michael Pollan's book "The Omnivore's Dilemma" for the full explanation.

And now the NYTimes op-ed:

"Indeed, this epidemic, which has infected more than 100 people and resulted in at least one death, probably has little do with the folks who grow and package your greens. The detective trail ultimately leads back to a seemingly unrelated food industry — beef and dairy cattle....But the villain in this outbreak, E. coli O157:H7, is far scarier, at least for humans. Your stomach juices are not strong enough to kill this acid-loving bacterium, which is why it’s more likely than other members of the E. coli family to produce abdominal cramps, diarrhea, fever and, in rare cases, fatal kidney failure...Where does this particularly virulent strain come from? It’s not found in the intestinal tracts of cattle raised on their natural diet of grass, hay and other fibrous forage. No, O157 thrives in a new — that is, recent in the history of animal diets — biological niche: the unnaturally acidic stomachs of beef and dairy cattle fed on grain, the typical ration on most industrial farms. It’s the infected manure from these grain-fed cattle that contaminates the groundwater and spreads the bacteria to produce, like spinach, growing on neighboring farms."

Crazy, eh?