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9/15/2006

E-Coli & Agribusiness

Dire warnings not to eat bagged fresh spinach flooded the news media Thursday evening into Friday. Authorities claim they don t know the source but that they are investigating. Interestingly federal and California officials had just announced on September 12 that they were launching a wide-ranging evaluation of lettuce farming and processing in the Salinas Valley, of California hoping to determine why leafy green vegetables grown there over the past decade have been linked to a potentially deadly strain of E. coli. This new spinach outbreak of e-coli is the twentieth occurrence since 1995. Eight of the previous nineteen outbreaks came from the Salinas Valley known as the Salad Bowl of the World. 217 people were reported sickened from those eight outbreaks. Two elderly people died in a California nursing home in 2003.  
 
Now we learn only days after the launching of the Salinas Valley investigation that bagged fresh spinach is potentially laced with a deadly strain of e-coli. Recent reports indicate that one person has died with 49 others infected. The most deadly reaction causes kidney failure.  
 
Isnt it interesting that the federal government having been influenced by powerful agri-business lobbies moved to shut down small agriculture beginning in the 1970s under the guise of public health. Mom & Pop meat packing houses were closed down all over the country. Organic farming was in its infancy as thinking farmers began to recognize the tidal wave of chemical production sweeping over rural America. University professors discounted natural production as inefficient and something kin to black magic. The world was told that natural farming would lead to widespread famine. Never mind that we were overproducing to such a level that great acreages of farm ground were retired to the Conservation Reserve Program to reduce the bushels being delivered to the country elevators. The Great Plains were devastated. Rural economic policy in America is one of the great disasters of the modern age.  
 
So what happened to our food safety? Does anyone remember the Jack In The Box incident that shocked the nation? Our food supply has been concentrated into large industrial operations. Now, when unsafe food reaches the consumer it is more than likely that vastly larger numbers of people are affected. As for lettuce and spinach the Salinas Valley is one large farm factory serving an equally large public. If it doesnt come from the U.S. it most likely comes from Mexico where raw sewage sometimes comes into contact with fruits and vegetables through irrigation techniques.  
 
Nearly gone are the days when the consumer can purchase his food directly from the producer. But the small producer can still be found. He NEEDS to be found and supported. The small producer is the true defender of food safety. His is not a 9-5 job. It is a lifestyle. One that protects his family as well as you.  
 
The ultimate question is When will American consumers wake up to the threat that is lurking just beyond the refrigerator? When will the Food Revolution begin? The security of not just your family but of this nation is in danger. We really don t need agribusiness conmen, with their loyalties to profits in charge of our food supply. 
So Long, 
The Cowboy 

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