A new study conducted by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows leafy greens are more responsible for foodborne illnesses than other foods. Natural food consumers need not panic. There are a few reasons why this is fact and these reasons can easily be remedied.
The information used in the study was collected over a period of several years. A single grower of lettuce was responsible for an outbreak of Escherichia coli (E. coli) in Connecticut and Illinois during May to June of 1996. This and other incidents of E. coli on leafy greens was caused by cattle run-off located near the fields were lettuce, kale, arugula or other greens were growing. According to the CDC, "Escherichia coli (abbreviated as E. coli) are bacteria found in the environment, foods, and intestines of people and animals."
Workers likely contaminated the greens as they were being harvested. A heavy rain will also splash the poison on to the under side of the leaves. Fecal contamination was also found in wash water and on finished lettuce.
How to protect yourself:
- Assume all fresh produce is contaminated with Salmonella or E. coli.
- Carry disposable wipes with you when you shop for food, in stores, from Farmer's Markets and from individual farms. Clean hands after handling the produce.
- Do not put your hands anywhere on your face while shopping. Use an alcohol swab or disposable wipe, when needed. Smokers, do not light a cigarette until hands have been washed.
- Clean lettuce by separating the leaves and spraying with a vinegar and water wash. Drain the lettuce or use a salad spinner. Always wash the salad spinner after use.
- Start with a clean sink. Use vinegar and baking powder to clean.
- Keep a sink filled with warm water and two-three cups of vinegar to clean hands while preparing or cooking food.
While leafy greens were responsible for the most hospitalizations, contaminated poultry caused the most deaths.