Do I Really Need to Worry About Food Safety?

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A few years have passed since we had a major food safety scare as witnessed in In 2012. E. Coli was identified in organic spinach and spring mix in Massachusetts. E.Coli was also the culprit with Romaine lettuce in Canada and California. In California, the irrigation water may have been contaminated. More recently in February of 2016 there was a salmonella outbreak linked to a pre-bagged salad mix used in sandwiches and salads sold at 7-Eleven stores and Woolworths. It is extremely rare for salmonella to occur in fruits and vegetables but there have been documented cases. There was a salmonella outbreak in a tomato packing shed in South Carolina several years back, so it does occur. Most of us have purchase bagged lettuce at some time for the ease and convenience. We just need to be aware of the potential problems associated with bagged lettuce. Since we do not cook our lettuce before consumption, it does very little good to wash bagged lettuce. In fact you may introduce different pathogens in your own kitchen. This holds true if your counters or cutting boards used to cut raw chicken were not thoroughly sanitized. It is very easy to get careless when rushing around the kitchen preparing dinner. It may seem harmless to use the same cutting board for your salad and chicken or you may feel that running the knife used to cut the chicken under hot water was sufficient. Not true, not true. It is best to have separate cutting boards, one for fruits and vegetables and one used for chicken and other types of meat. After using cutting boards, get into the habit of washing with soap and hot water. Be sure to thoroughly clean your knives as well. Also, be very careful with that sponge or dishtowel used while cutting up your chicken! A swipe of the chicken juices using a dishtowel or sponge can spread potential pathogens like wildfire!

Salmonella is an unusual bacteria in that it can take 72 hours or more for symptoms to become evident. The most common symptoms are diarrhoea, fever, headache, stomach cramps, vomiting, nausea, and dehydration. The problem with pre-packaged food like bagged lettuce lies in the fact that it has been handled by many people by the time it is purchased.

I, personally, purchased organically grown bagged lettuce only to open it and discover small worms had hatched into the bag. Organically grown means different things to different people. Our country does have standards and regulations for organically grown produce. This is not the case if the produce originates in a county other than the United States. Apparently microscopic eggs had been laid on the lettuce that I purchased. If organic pesticides were used, the eggs endured this as well as the industrial washing process. Then when the bagged lettuce was quietly resting in my refrigerator, the eggs hatched into the wriggling little worms. I don’t believe that ingesting these creatures would have put me in the emergency room. However, I would rather get my protein source another way!