First it was the spinach. Raw, conventional spinach.
This year it is tomatoes. Raw, conventional tomatoes.
Right now there is an outbreak of salmonella in certain types of raw tomatoes.
Since a similar situation like this happened two years ago with raw conventional spinach, and now with something as innocent as tomatoes, here are some tips on how to keep you and your family safe.
10 Ways to Cope When Salmonella and E.Coli Outbreaks Happen
- Get all the facts first. We have received worried emails from individuals who were frightened that they had tomatoes recently. When reports like this happen, try to get a basic handle on the situation. Read news reports from major media sources. Avoid reading reports from places that tend to over-exaggerate these situations. Get the facts first.
- Avoid buying the produce in question for a short time until facts are found. At the time of this article, even the FDA doesn't know exactly what types of tomatoes are causing the problem, but they believe it is only roma and large round tomatoes. When there is so little information out there, you might want to stay away from that one type of produce for a week or so until things are taken care of. This doesn't mean you need to avoid spinach or tomatoes forever...just focus your attention on the hundreds of varieties of greens and fruits and vegetables out there. Take a few weeks to discover the wide variety of foods to choose from.
- Buy local, preferably organic. Despite the media frenzy of Earthbound Farm having the E.Coli outbreak of organic spinach, it turns out it was conventional Dole Farm spinach instead. As far as we know, there has not been any salmonella or E.Coli contamination coming from organic produce. Organic and biodynamic is usually safer.
And don't forget to buy local. When you buy from local farmers, you tend to avoid the situations where these crises can occur. Salmonella and e.coli outbreaks usually happen due to large animal farms being near where the produce is grown. When you buy from smaller farms, you can know where your produce is coming from. You may even be able to visit the farm where you buy your food, or at least be able to meet the farmer that grows your food. For more information on buying local, check out localharvest.org.
- The more raw food you eat, the healthier you tend to be. Although this has not been scientifically proven, it seems that long term raw foodists tend to be healthier when it comes to food poisoning. Raw foodists may be healthier due to the amount of hydrochloric acid in their digestive systems.
Raw foodists also tend to avoid food poisoning from salmonella and E.Coli because the foods they eat rarely come in contact with foods that cause salmonella and E.Coli. Food poisoning is usually related to meat, and occasionally dairy products. By not consuming these products raw foodists have a low chance of encountering food-borne illness.
Note: This is not a suggestion to go out and blindly eat food that is considered contaminated with salmonella or e.coli. This is just pointing out the fact that raw foodists tend to be less affected by food poisoning.
- Grow your own food. This is a very do-it-yourself kind of tip. If you have a balcony to grow some herbs in pots, or a small plot of land in your back yard to grow greens and vegetables, go for it. This option is not for everyone, but if you have the time and the resources, growing your own food is a great way to know exactly where your food is coming from.
- Eat at home. Whenever possible, eat at home. Food poisoning in the form of salmonella, e.coli or other contaminants tends to happen at restaurants. This is usually not an issue for raw foodists who eat at home most of the time. For those people that do eat out, perhaps non-raw family members, they can take precautions by avoiding dishes with the produce involved and follow the other steps outlined in this article.
- The media tends to exaggerate things. Keep in mind that the media tends to go overboard with the news coverage of these sorts of events. There have been outbreaks of e.coli and salmonella in other types of produce in the past, but they are usually smaller isolated events in one state. Sometimes the media reports that these outbreaks are nationwide, when in reality they affect a small geographic area. That is why it is important to get the facts first.
Right now the FDA is reporting that tomatoes grown in 18 states and 7 countries have not been associated with the outbreak. To look at the list of unaffected growing locations and types of tomatoes that appear to be safe, click here.
- Don't panic. Fear creates more fear. We have talked with people and received emails from others that they will never eat raw spinach again after the E.coli outbreak from 2006. Raw spinach no longer seems to be a problem, yet for some people, they will never eat these foods again because of fear. If you buy into the fear you may never be able to eat anything again. The list of "contaminated foods" will just keep growing and growing. Try to remain calm and continue with the rest of your life. Eat foods that you feel are safe, like ones grown from your garden or that you bought from the local farmers market. Do the best you can, and try to not overreact to these situations as they happen.
- If you have food poisoning symptoms, get medical attention immediately.
"Not everyone who ingests salmonella bacteria will become ill." - KidsHealth.org
Food poisoning from salmonella and E.Coli tend to affect very young children, the elderly, and those with a lowered immune system due to cancer or HIV/AIDS. If you or someone you love becomes ill from salmonella, e.coli or other food contaminants, get help. Determine if your symptoms match the descriptions of food-borne illness. Food poisoning can be dangerous but can be treated if caught early. Here are links to how to diagnose Salmonella and E.Coli:
Symptoms and Treatment of Salmonella
Symptoms and Treatment of E.Coli
- Keep Eating Raw Food. After all is said and done, we are all going to keep eating raw food. Even those who don't consider themselves to be raw foodists (aka "cooked foodists"). These outbreaks are not going to make the entire American public eat only food that comes out of a can. These outbreaks are a symptom of a larger issue of the growing and handling of produce, both here in the U.S. and around the world. These outbreaks will not last forever. Changes will be made. Improvements will be made. And we will all continue to eat raw food.
- Heidi Ohlander
Raw Food Right Now
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