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Media Have Been Portraying Nature as More Friendly Than She Is

05.oct.99, Doug Powell, Ontario Farmer

05.oct.99, Doug Powell, Ontario Farmer
Newspapers have both been busy in recent months, reinforcing the myth that nature is somehow benign.
David Cohlmeyer promoted in the Star a comforting but ultimately unrealistic illusion that Ralfalfa has an internal clock to prevent it from germinating for at least six months ... and it provides time for any harmful bacteria to die - as he blamed unscrupulous operators for the numerous recent outbreaks of salmonella and E. coli 0157:H7 in sprouts.
Such bacteria are not a function of the time gods but are ubiquitous, and can easily contaminate seed, which is then sprouted in an environment which also happens to be ideal for bacterial growth.
Another Star letter writer, a former Health Canada scientist turned activist, chastised her former health colleagues, stating they should be legally liable for wrongly stating that, "California strawberries are hazardous when, in fact, the concern is over South American strawberries."
Hindsight provides an arrogant clarity. Except that the culprit was Guatemalan raspberries. I wonder if she will pay strawberry growers for any losses incurred by her statements.  Globe and Mail writer Jennifer Bain in a feature about the benefits of juicing quoted one author as saying that juicing gets "fresh, living nutrients from the juice into your bloodstream and then to your cellular level in minutes."
Such juicing will also provide fresh, living bacteria, some of them quite nasty. An outbreak of Salmonella in fresh-squeezed orange juice in Australia sickened 500 through March; a similar outbreak sickened 100 or so in Orlando in 1996; 14 were sickened with E. coli 0157:H7 in unpasteurized apple in cider in Ontario last fall; 70 were sickened and one child killed by the same pathogen in the 1996 Odwalla juice outbreak in the Pacific Northwest; recently, some 20 people in the Pacific Northwest, including British Columbia, were stricken with Salmonella muenchen after consuming drinks directly or made with unpasteurized fresh-squeezed orange juice packaged by the Sun Orchard Co. of Tempe, Arizona.
Bain also recited the folksy gospel that bottled, pasteurized juices "are essentially dead foods as there is no live nutrition left in them."
Odwalla executives used to say the same thing until their 1996 outbreak led to multi-million dollar liability settlements and criminal convictions. Their juices are now flash pasteurized.
Nature is not benign. Fresh juices can be prepared in a safe manner provided the fruits and vegetables themselves are grown and handled in a safe manner. Simply buying organic, as mentioned by Bain, is no guarantee of anything as far as microorganisms are concerned. Nor are food-borne bacteria and other microorganisms the result of political categorizations.
Our appetite for stories about food seems insatiable. Marketers will say this is a result of affluence. It's no longer enough to tell the world who you are by the clothes you wear, the house you live in, the car you drive; now, individuals use brands of bottled water as a calling card along with their web home-page address.
Meals featuring Salt Spring Island goat cheese, French goose liver pate and Australian shiratz are not about caloric fulfillment; they are about stories. Newspapers should get the stories right.