Op-Ed: Did A Cow Crap in Your Tomatoes?

Posted Jun 24, 2008 by Bob Ewing
Claims are being made that the meat production industry is to be blamed for cases of salmonella contamination of vegetables.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency says that salmonella bacteria are found naturally in the intestines of animals, (especially poultry and swine), birds, reptiles, some pets and some humans. The bacteria can also be found in the environment.
If you eat food that has been contaminated by salmonella you may develop salmonellosis which is spread from person-to-person, animals/birds/reptiles-to-people and by consuming food which is contaminated with Salmonella. Both animals and people can be carriers.
The Food and Drug Administration has recently issued several warning and updates about salmonella and tomatoes. this is sufficient reason to start examining our relationship to where our food comes from and how it is possible for incidents like this to occur.
How does a tomato become infected by salmonella?
Alison Kilkenny
who is a vegan which means she does not eat meat or anything that comes from animals recently found herself projectile vomiting into her toilet last week. The diagnosis was food-poisoning, tomatoes were suspected.
In 2006, the United Nations produced a report entitled Livestock's Long Shadow (pdf file).
Directly or indirectly, through grazing and through feedcrop production, the livestock sector occupies about 30 per cent of the ice free terrestrial surface on the planet. In many situations. livestock are a major source of land-based pollution emitting nutrients and organic matter, pathogens and drug residues into rivers, lakes and coastal seas.p.3
Kilkenny states that a recent census of produce outbreaks between 1996 and 2007 counted no fewer than 33 epidemics from salmonella-contaminated fruits and vegetables.
If we consider the food chain which can be defined as the transfer of food energy from plants to one or more animals; a series of plants and animals linked by their food relationships, we can begin to understand how a pathogen, for example, can flow from one species to another.
A small herd of beef cattle are out grazing in the field, there is a small stream running along one side of the field and the fence has been damaged in one section, or worse there is no barrier between the cattle and the water.
The cattle are thirsty and step into the stream and while they are in the stream they let go of some of their waste which flops into the stream. This begins the dissemination of whatever was in the cow's droppings.
The solution that Kilkenny puts forward is one that has been written about and discussed here at DJ, that it is time to buy your food from a local producer and this is a sensible solution. Organic growing does not protect you from salmonella, but if you buy your hamburger steak from a farmer who is selling direct through a farmer's market or farm gate sale, for example, you know exactly where the food came from and whom to talk to if there is a problem.
You may even be able to arrange a visit to the farm to see the operation for yourself, some small farms have set up days when visitors are welcome for farm tours.
As the price of food rises it seems reasonable to be concerned not only with the cost but with the quality of the food we eat after all are you really willing to pay to eat cow crap?