Saturday September 16, 2006

Fear of Spinach

I had my favorite breakfast this morning - Eggs Florentine. The waitress said, "You don't want spinach". I asked why not. She told me there'd been a recall. I said "I think cooked is OK."

I went home and looked up the recall on Google. Approximately 100 people across the country (32 in Wisconsin) have been diagnosed with E-coli food poisoning. It may be linked to bagged spinach.

Every article seems to contain a variation on these two sentences:

Natural Selection Foods LLC, the world's largest producer of organic produce, has been linked to the infected greens, prompting a recall of 34 brands.
...
Federal officials stressed that the bacteria had not been isolated in products sold by Natural Selection, best known for the Earthbound Farm brand.

Another sentence that pops up frequently:

Food and Drug Administration and state officials don't know the cause of the outbreak, although raw, packaged spinach appears likely.

So, was I nuts to order Eggs Florentine for breakfast? Let's do some quick back-of-the-pencil calculations.

  • 109 people are known sick
  • 75% of the nation's bagged spinach is produced in California
  • National Selection produces approximately 75% of the spinach grown in California, under 34 brand labels.
  • No bacteria has yet been isolated from testing bagged spinach product.
  • How many spinach salads, or bags of fresh spinach, etc, do you think are sold in the US in one day?
  • 109 people are sick from something they ate

Yes, I could get food poisoning from my spinach salad. I could get food poisoning from the iceberg lettuce at the salad bar. I could get food poisoning from my breakfast eggs or my hamburger at dinner, or something I've had in my fridge for just a little too long.

Last week I caught a cold. Twelve years ago, I came down with Chicken Pox (probably transmitted by a woman in a class I was taking; she said her son had Chicken Pox). Everything you come into contact with — food, people, animals, plants — carries some risk of making you sick.

If I had a bag of spinach in the refrigerator, I doubt that I'd throw it out. I ordered Eggs Florentine this morning without much second thought.

The news articles quote a lot of people as saying "better safe than sorry". I'm not convinced that we haven't gone a little bit overboard in this case.

Fear of Spinach ( in category Random Thoughts ) - posted at Sat, 16 Sep, 14:36 Pacific | «e»

Comments

I had someone say to me when the outbreak started (I am in Oklahoma) that they had planned to start eating healthy but guess they can't since you "can't trust bagged vegetables". Well, that's her perogative not to "trust" bagged vegetables (frankly, I don't trust most of the "vegetables" walking around on this planet...whoops, my bad) what ever happened to buying FRESH produce?

I did find it a little funny when I heard that one of the brands is apparently one of those "organic" (aren't all vegetables organic?) brands that are supposed to be better for you.

Fear of spinach, oh my what will be next?
You are right, no matter what we do, where we go, what we eat, etc. we need to be cautious 24/7.
So, I suppose this means no lettuce eating as well. Especially in the bags. 23 States in all now. They have not yet found the source of this contamination.

On Monday night, we went to a local restaurant where we often order the spinach salad. They made it with Romaine. Not bad... a bit crunchier.

I too eat spinach pretty regularly and my parents called me the morning it made the news to make sure I threw out any spinach I had in my fridge. Now I wonder if they realized that if it was in my fridge there was a good chance I'd already eaten some of it... Furthermore, the recall is for bagged spinach and most of the other spinach I eat is fresh from the local farmers markets, so I could just eat Fresh. Thanks for bringing the "panic" to light, it has been a rather funny experience for me as well.