Protecting My Family From E. Coli Isn’t My Job

Adriana Velez

cucumbersIt's a strange new world we're living in -- the kind of world where vegetables kill! The cucumber E. coli outbreak has spread from Germany to the Netherlands. As of Friday at noon, at least 18 people are dead and 1,800 people have gotten sick. The E. coli strain appears to be a new-and-improved, extra-deadly strain. Only the two strongest kinds of antibiotics work against it. This is the deadliest outbreak in recorded history.

Remember the days when all you had to do was wash your hands after handling raw meat, cook that meat thoroughly, and keep your eggs and milk cold? Now we can't even trust our vegetables. We're being told to scrub them really hard and maybe that'll take away about 85 percent of the bacteria there. Cross your fingers for the rest.

Well, I'm sick of shouldering all the responsibility for protecting my family against killer vegetables. 

Okay libertarians, I see you waving your "personal responsibility" flags and yelling about too much regulation. Food companies should be free to poison us all! It's up to you to wage war against the poisons and toxins hiding in your food! Batten the hatches, get out your guns, it's every family for itself!

Obviously everyone should use food safety practices in their homes. I'll be making some of that vinegar solution Cooks Illustrated recommends because clearly we can't count on the industry to keep up their end of things. Until they get their act together, it's on us. I get it. But my point is, it shouldn't all be on us. As consumers we have the right to demand clean food. 

Can we please talk about the responsibilities businesses have to their consumers? 

This is how the market is supposed to work. You, the business, makes stuff I want. If I want vegetables that don't kill me, you should be producing that. And if you screw up, we get to call you out on it and maybe even impose some rules to make sure you don't do it again. Because I can't decide not to buy your product again if I'm dead, right? 

This food contamination trend is not going away. It's just getting worse. The outbreaks are getting bigger and more deadly. Washing your veggies carefully and cooking your poo-flecked meat is like using a toy umbrella in a monsoon. It's not enough. We need large-scale change to reverse this scourge.


Image via karenandbrademerson/Flickr

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