Unsafe on Any Plate

Earthbound Farms Bagged Fresh SpinachWell, the truth is out. According to this updated CNN article the item pictured at the left is responsible for the latest E. coli outbreak.

Note the label. Note the USDA Organic seal.

Note also, from the article, that this product is sold under several brand names, including Rave Spinach, Natural Selection Foods, Dole, Earthbound Farm, Trader Joe's, Ready Pac and Green Harvest.

This is factory farmed produce, sprayed down with shit (literally) from a feedlot and foisted onto an unsuspecting public as "organic". The problem is with the USDA here: the standards for getting the organic seal are so arcane and essentially useless as to make the description meaningless.

Hammerstead Farms could probably not get this seal, despite our use of sustainable practices, free ranging animals and absolutely no unsafe feeds - Hel, the only critters we feed additionally are the chickens, and we never use fertilizer or irrigation water (as if we needed that!) from any outside source.

But we have some old fence posts treated with CCA (an arsenic compound). And according to the regs, we'd have to replace all of them, in case the cows cribbed them.

Free range cows don't crib fenceposts - they have real trees with real bark to munch if they get the urge for some heavy fiber. Feedlot cattle will crib fence posts - no trees in your typical feedlot.

My neighbors are soybean and corn guys, and they treat their fields, which are contiguous to my pasture, with various herbicides. They're pretty careful - one look at the weedline around my paddocks would confirm that, but the USDA is worried about toxic runoff, and would insist on a large (at least 50 foot) buffer between me and them before I'd be considered for certification.

Yet the folks producing this spinach got certified.

Here's a fairly good writeup from 2002 on what the standards mean in practice, and why some farmers (like me) won't participate.

As for the folks calling for more government regulation to solve this problem, I can assure them that this farm met the strictest government standards available. And that more regulation would only be used to put folks like me completely out of business, and wouldn't slow down companies like this a lickin' whit.

So understand this: our food supply is inherently unsafe. And there's nothing the government can or will do to make it safe. The safety of your food is up to you: buy local produce and meats, follow your food to the source and know where and from whom it comes. Or hit the local supermarket and roll the dice.

07:35 /Agriculture | 3 comments | permanent link