It seems to me that massive outbreaks of food borne illness are becoming more and more common. That our current, worsening outbreak is the second E. Coli outbreak tied to my favorite type of lettuce in the past six months or so, and it is so virulent, is making me feel worried about our food system, and pessimistic about my country’s will to improve it.
An outbreak of E. coli food poisoning linked to romaine lettuce has widened and has now made at least 98 people sick, federal health officials said Friday.
More than half have had to be hospitalized because the strain of E. coli causing this outbreak is an especially nasty one, the officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration said.
People in 22 states have reported E. coli infections linked to the outbreak, the CDC and FDA said.
I’m no expert in this, but I feel like we have several problems in our food system that have, in the past few decades, started to compound in dangerous ways that we should have seen coming. Some of these problems include overcrowding of animals, overuse of antibiotics in livestock, and over-concentration in production and processing. When bad hygiene infects food, it’s worse now than it used to be. The bacteria are more resistant to antibiotics, and the food, and food borne illness, is distributed all across the country.
Another annoyance to me, as a someone who has eaten some raw eggs (usually in cookie dough or homemade eggnog) and rare meat over the years, is that I have never gotten a food borne illness from those activities. I have, however, gotten terribly ill several times from eating restaurant salads, probably due to unwashed hands or vegetables. There are menu warnings about undercooked meat in every restaurant I go to, but none about the danger of eating unwashed vegetables.
I am impatiently awaiting the day I can eat Caesar salads again.