Spinach problem shows import of conscientious food care, cultivation

To the Editor:

It seems clear that the Yale Sustainable Food Project enjoys wide (albeit somewhat passive) support on campus. But there are certainly some who question the necessity of the program or the superiority of the food it brings to Yale. The recent outbreak of E. coli in Californian fresh spinach should convince these skeptics. The precise circumstances of the outbreak and its causes directly argue for the expansion of programs like the Sustainable Food Project that seek to restore a healthy relationship between our food industry and the environment.

Since the beginning of this outbreak, roughly 190 people have been infected by the strain of E. coli found in spinach grown in California’s Salinas Valley. Most agree that the contamination was caused by contact between the spinach and irrigation water that had become contaminated with cattle feces from nearby farms. Situations in which large tracts of manure, pesticides and water sources are in constant interaction are clearly the norm in today’s food industry, with results that are rarely as deadly, but always as deleterious as those seen in September.

The organic brands of the affected companies have been found to be uncontaminated by E. coli, but the case still demonstrates the need for greater responsibility on the part of food suppliers and consumers. Hopefully, efforts put forth by YSFP and similar programs will continue to reverse the harmful trends in the food industry that contributed to the recent outbreak.

Jake Velker ’07

Oct. 1, 2006

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