The detailed timeline on the expanding beef recall reads like a detective story. It’s all there on the website of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, demonstrating investigative measures being taken to find what allowed E. coli to enter the meat.
But in the larger context, there’s very little mystery to food contamination. Many such events — possibly the vast majority — are caused by too many livestock and too much meat, being cranked through mass-volume industrial systems to satisfy widespread expectations for daily servings of inexpensive meat.
Even when spinach or other vegetables are contaminated with E. coli, the underlying problem is often that we’re eating too much meat. Spinach don’t make E.coli; animals do. It’s a common component of cattle gut flora, especially when the animals have been fattened in intensive production systems. Given the amounts of meat we’ve come to expect, and the billions (actually, tens of billions) of livestock animals now on the planet, there’s just too much manure. And what would — in small amounts — be a solution (good fertilizer) is instead a problem. Too much waste, which often gets spread in excess on croplands.
I repeat. E. coli comes from livestock, not from spinach. That’s one of the hundreds of reasons I was motivated to write High Steaks: Why and How to Eat Less Meat. www.newsociety.com/Books/H/High-Steaks
You and I and all our friends can help minimize future food contaminations — including of vegetables — by eating less in the way of animal products, by becoming more discerning in our choice of meats, and by insisting that our governments implement food policy that requires livestock production that is clean and kind.