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E. coli: The Price We Pay to "Eat Fresh"

Why does E. coli keep ending up in the food we eat? It doesn't happen all that often, at least not to the level of "major outbreak" wherein a product recall is in order. But it happens often enough to beg the question. And it so happens that the fresh, leafy greens most of us love to consume are now over 40% of the problem.

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Food safety experts say that "convenience greens", that is the prepared salads and bags of chopped vegetables that save consumers so much time and effort, are extra risky because they have so many touch points. The product is exposed to more people and machinery, and so the more contact, the more added risk.

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But this is no great revelation. Regulators are aware of this, but there is precious little that they can do short of warning consumers and investigating incidents.  Contamination can occur on the farm from birds, water, farm workers, and farm equipment. All can carry E. coli. Sprays applied during the packaging phase of the process are only partially effective in mitigating the risk of infection, and the same is true of washing fruits and vegetables at home. Restaurant workers add an entirely new dimension to the problem. As Chipotle and others have discovered, "eating fresh" is not without its risks.


Discussion: Does this post make you think twice about consuming produce?

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