As a defender of whole foods and wishing to dispell the myth that the contaminated spinach was suffering from intentional organic fertilizer (cow manure), I present this opinion from Nina Planck about what to do to keep leaves we eat free of harmful bacteria.
It seems that our practice to fatten cattle faster (while also making them require medications to deal with the extra gas and troubles of an all-grain diet that is not natural), also has created a monsterous strain of E. coli bacteria:
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.
E. coli O157:H7 survives just fine in our stomachs because it likes acid (like our own E. coli, I guess), but causes abdominal cramps, diarrhea, fever, and sometimes, fatal kidney failure.
Plancks' suggestion is what I've heard from others who are pro-cow and pro-cow-eating, feed the animal what it's supposed to eat — grass.
Of course, it may not be the water.
Dr. David Acheson, chief medical officer for the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition at the Food and Drug Administration, is saying it's "way too early" to blame skunky irrigation water, while the veggie-growers work on a new bunch of safety guidelines and whatnot, after 157 or so people got sick, 83 went to the hospital, and a few have died.
I thought it was funny to read these conflicting "rules" for eating greens that may be contaminated, as presented by our local daily:
Q: Can I wash E. coli off spinach?
A: No. To kill the bacteria, you must cook spinach for 15 seconds at 160 degrees, the FDA says, and wash your hands, utensils and cooking surfaces with hot, soapy water before and after.
So why can't you buy spinach anywhere? Because you can't trust people to follow cooking directions, I suppose. I mean, what person gives their two-year-old a spinach smoothie during a "don't eat spinach" lock-down?
The kind that sleeps with a baby (never advised) and allows the baby to fall into a bucket of spew that got there while mom was sick and passing out from too much partying, perhaps?