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Please begin with an informative title:

Colorado Cantalope Farmers Arrested for Listeria Outbreak That Killed 33
HOLLY, Colo. — ...The cantaloupe growers' farm is considered the source of a national listeria outbreak that killed at least 33 and sickened another 147 people in 2011, one of the country's most deadly outbreaks of food-borne illness, according to government investigators......The Centers for Disease Control linked cantaloupe grown at Jensen Farms to the listeria outbreak that began at the end of August 2011. In October of that year, the Food and Drug Administration found that Jensen Farms' packing and storage facilities likely helped spread the listeria and directly contributed to the outbreak. Cases associated with the strain of listeria traced to Jensen Farms ended in December 2011......The FDA said one piece of equipment, a used potato washing machine bought just before the outbreak, was its possible cause and cited dirty water on the floor of the packing center as well.
Are Monsanto and GMOs involved? No! What are you, fucking kidding?  Of course not.

In fact, every year more Americans are probably killed by contaminated food than died on 9-11!

The Centers For Disease Control 2011 estimates of food borne illnesses:
Total food borne illnesses    47.8 million
Estimated Hospitalizations   127,839
Estimated number of deaths    3,037

Although it's not the most common foodborne pathogen, listeria is among the most deadly.  Listeria has also been linked to contaminated cold cuts (14 to 21 deaths in 1998)  and chicken (7 deaths in 2002).  

The worst single incident was the 1985 California listeria outbreak caused by Mexican style soft cheese.  Listeria caused 47 or 52 deaths, including 19 stillbirths and 10 infant deaths.  For all you raw milk fans, this was probably caused by inadequate pasteurization

And speaking of unsterile milk, follow me past the orange gelato.....


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Also in 1985 was an outbreak of salmonella that started in an  Illinois dairy that may have caused as many as 200,000 cases of food poisoning in six Midwest states, killing from two to 12 people.  Raw milk anyone?

More recently, raw milk has been the cause of a half dozen outbreaks of Campylobacter jejuni infections in eastern Pennsylvania.  The latest outbreak was caused by contamination at the Shankstead Ecofarm and The Family Cow Dairy.
Notice that in this case it was raw milk being sold to people that want raw milk, not just faulty pasteurization.

At this point you may want to stop and savor the irony that many of the same people who are obsessed with the "dangers" of GMOs also believe that raw milk is a magic elixir of life, even though milk contamination has killed dozens of Americans and sickened hundreds of thousands.

In the 1990s, we saw the emergence of the O157:H7 Escherichia coli, an enterohemorrhagic superbug that can cause hemorrhagic diarrhea and kidney failure.  This has usually been associated with meat, but not always.  Contaminated water at the County Fair in Easton, New York killed two people. This seems to be typical of E. coli contamination incidents that cause one to two fatalities, although saving the lives of dozens of people with organ failure can be a heroic task.   We tend to hear about recalls of meat because meat is labeled and tracked, so it can be recalled.  This meat isn't tossed out - it will be tested and then cooked and put into products like meatballs and dog food. The actual contaminated lots will be sent to rendering plants.

Salmonella is a traditional favorite cause of food poisoning, and something like 5,000 cases can be expected every year from eggs. You may remember recent peanut butter recalls.  Other salmonella outbreaks include contaminated orange juice, bean sprouts, and salsa.

Nor are fruits and veggies safe.  You probably remember the E. coli O157:H7 in unpasteurized apple juice from Odwalla, which killed a child. This juice contamination caused a sensation because it was the first high-profile E. coli O157:H7 incident.  E. Coli continues to contaminate a number of types of vegetables such as lettuce.  It can be hard to determine which salad vegetable is contaminated, especially in a restaurant environment. E. coli contaminated spinach killed 3 in 2006. And in 2011, E. coli on strawberries killed an Oregon woman. And I already mentioned the salmonella contamination in juice and sprouts.

Hepatitis A outbreaks have been caused by contaminated strawberries and green onions. The 2003 United States hepatitis A outbreak in Pennsylvania and West Virginia that  killed four people  was from green onions served at Chi-Chi's restaurants.

I was impressed by the number of deaths and illnesses (possibly hundreds of thousands) associated with raw milk or badly pasteurized milk.  Obsessing about the dangers of GMOs while drinking raw milk is right up there with being an anti-vaxxer as far as I'm concerned.  And fresh vegetables and produce aren't safe either, including food grown by organic farms.  As I always say - everything that fits in your mouth is not food.

I put no stock in the ability of the free market to keep us safe.  Clearly, hundred of lives could be saved by spending more on food safety each year.  Or we could pass  ballot initiatives that would use much that money for  tracking GMOs, but every penny diverted would increase our risk of dying from foodborne illnesses.  I hate to sound like John Stossel (because I loath John Stossel), but we need to make sure that our feel-good safety measures don't actually kill people.

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