As of last Friday, an ongoing outbreak of E. coli 0157:H7 linked to fresh spinach had sickened 166 people in 25 states. For more than a week, FDA had recommended people not eat fresh, raw spinach, and the problem had been traced back to three California counties.
Officials were telling folks that it was safe to eat spinach grown anywhere outside the suspect area, but the spinach industry was scrambling to devise a way of letting consumers know the origin of what they're buying. The media focus has rightly been on the human tragedy of this episode -- those sickened, the 27 who had developed kidney failure and one death (two others are under investigation).
To say the least, the spinach industry has been devastated by this food-safety event. It's been interesting from the beef industry's vantage point to watch the media coverage of this serious food-safety event, however.
Who in America isn't aware of the potential health risk associated with eating spinach by now? But have you taken the time to find out about the contamination, the risk involved or the magnitude of the problem, or have you relied on sound bites, and 30-second news clips to get your info? What do you know about E. coli 0157:H7? And has the incident made you less likely to eat spinach as a result?
The incident illustrates what a battle it is to get the correct info out on a timely basis when such tragedies occur. It's also sparked a lot of talk about the risk to the food-supply system due to terrorism, and how vulnerable our entire U.S. food system is. That may the silver lining to this tragic cloud.
-- Troy Marshall