Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Tomato Salmonella

It is simple to understand how something like salmonella bacteria becomes an issue with meats. Meat coming from animals and all. The mystery seen here with this new tomato based outbreak of salmonella poisoning (June 7, 2008 news story begins) is going to be pretty puzzling to the public at large.

Fresh tomatoes are a huge part of the American diet. Salads and sandwiches just are not the same without some tomato in the toppings. Ketchup may be a form of tomato but a burger lacking fresh slices of tomato in the bun is pretty bland fare indeed. How do you get a contamination like this on fresh vegetables?

What third world country were these tomatoes shipped here from? If the current date was in the month of January or February, that would be my first suspicion too. Here we are in sunny June, the first part of summer and tomatoes grown in Florida and California are ripe and on the market already. Most likely the origin of these salmonella tomatoes is right here in the United States. E. coli and salmonella bacteria contaminations showing up in fresh fruits and vegetables grown in the USA have been occurring with alarming and increasing regularity over the past couple of years.

The FDA actually stated that a September 2006 outbreak of E. coli on baby spinach from Dole's California farm on ..."wild pigs, irrigation wells and surface waterways exposed to feces from cattle and wildlife". Sorry guys, I don't buy this explanation for one second!
1) There couldn't possibly be a large enough population of wild pigs
in one county of now our overly developed country to even consider
such a hair-brained notion. Maybe in the 1870's, definitely not in
2) Ah, yes blame it on the water. Irrigation wells are sealed off and
usually draw from far below ground. Most contaminations from well
water are mineral based from natural sources far below the ground.
If it were the well, then the contamination would have reared it's
ugly head shortly after it began being used on food crops. Also,
the longer well water runs, the purer the water becomes as any bad
minerals or surface contaminants become thinner and even completely
disappear. It is one thing to fill a drinking glass, and completely
without reason to think a field the size of one growing for Dole
would collect such a huge concentration of bacteria through the
irrigation system.
3) The feces of wildlife (please refer back to the wild pigs in #1).
4) The feces of cattle exposure to surface waterways? Cattle manure
has been successfully used as a natural fertilizer since the dawn
of time. In fact, the very circle of nature uses the feces of
animals to create nutrients for all the plant life the springs from
the soil. While E.Coli and salmonella have been a problem with the
meat packing industry, it is something newer to see this occurring
on vast produce farms that have no herds of cows or swine in
residence. This isn't 1960 where the family farm raised herds and
highly varied patches of crop simultaneously on one 40-acre plot.
We live in the day of the corporate farm, my friends. If you had
a good, working knowledge and education in farming as it is practiced
today in modern America, you wouldn't buy these theories at all.

I would suspect the fertilizer applied to the field, only that could have been present in large enough concentrations to have affected such a huge collection of finished produce. Before, you start thinking that it was most likely a cattle manure based fertilizer you should start doing more study on where the cheapest and easiest source of modern fertilizers for agriculture come from. Raising cows ain't cheap! Livestock farming has gotten really expensive. Most composted slurry fertilizers are applied to crops such as soybeans and field corn or wheat within the same small farming community in which it was created. It is applied to the fields in the winter and early spring and can't affect something as far off in the future as September beyond restoring the nutrients needed for the new season's crops beginning.

The cheapest and most prevelantly available form of fertilizer is municipal sludge. Municipal sludge is composted HUMAN MANURE. All the billions of people residing in huge cities flush that stuff away in the toilet thinking to never see the smelly issue surface again. Where do you think it went to anyway? How do you think a city the size of Los Angeles, Chicago or Pittsburgh deals with 365 days of your morning constitutional times several million people a day? They turn it into a composted material called sludge and sell it off cheap to agriculture.

In fact you personally can buy Milwaukee sludge at almost any garden center. I present to you Milorganite. If you want to keep deer from eating your hostas - just apply a nice coating of Milorganite around the garden perimeter three to four times each season. The scent of humans will keep them far away from your flower garden.

This wouldn't be the first time the use of municipal sludge as a farm fertilizer caused death and illness to the population. Dig around and look into well-water contamination from Washington D.C. sludge applied to the extremely hilly farmland in handy, northern West Virgina. You'll have to go back a few years in the news, but it is there and it created all manner of health problems for the poor farmers in that region.

Human beings should not eat the by-products of their own offal! Yet here we are in America where cheap is better than quality and no one wants to pay their own way through life anymore. I don't know what they are going to do with the by-products of everyone's morning constitutional, but applying it to the tomato fields is not a wise idea! Do you suppose they will soon create genetically modified food that will not absorb the bad parts of your poop so we can safely consume what we already got rid of? I think I need to plant a bigger produce garden now.


Leslie said...

Thank You!

I have tried to explain this very thing to some and they simply cannot believe that it does happen. I would also like to take this time to compliment the whole blog.
I now live in a little apartment with just a tiny balcony (covered in my flowering plants but no garden plants this year) and I miss having a yard to play in. I love your blog and check it regularly. Living in NW GA means that I can enjoy the same plants you showcase, so I have a list of what to play with when I move back out into a house with a yard.
On one of your earlier posts - If I'm ever over near Charlotte NC, I'll drop over the line and look for Stacy's Greenhouse. Can't wait!
Keep up the great work - it is greatly appreciated.

Leslie (GA)

Reflexion said...

It is so good to hear an echo from out there. This municipal waste is a problem and an issue that most US citizens think nothing of after they flush the toilet. I would really like to learn WHERE they think it goes after that.