Vegetables make me sick

The recent outbreak of E. coli in the produce of the European Union started my thoughts down a path I hope I will never have to find the end of. What happens when I can no longer trust what I require for sustenance?

More than 2,000 people have fallen ill and more than a dozen have lost their lives due to the outbreak. I do my best to eat fresh fruits and vegetables as often as possible, and as a consumer with limited resources it would be out of the realm of possibility for me to test everything that I ate. For this reason we have a trust of our food suppliers that is born of the marketplace. We believe that our food suppliers will not sell us contaminated products if for no other reason than to protect their brand name.

Nobody wants to be known as the supplier of tainted consumables, which is why Spanish farmers were outraged that Germany chose to point the finger at them. While I understand that Germany wants to solve the problem and exonerate themselves, they must understand that a public lambasting is not the best solution. It is the European Union, after all. Regardless, the finger-pointing and the lack of progress in their investigation isn’t the most alarming part of this story.

What really made me worry was to discover that if this type of outbreak were to happen in the United States it would be legal. Yes, legal. Growers and processors in the United States are not required to test food for disease-causing agents, like bacteria or other microorganisms, before it is shipped to grocery stores and markets. Let me say that again. In the United States of America our food suppliers are not required to make sure the food they produce is safe to eat before it is shipped. Despite this, our track record here in the U.S. has not been terrible, which places me in a bit of a dilemma: Does that mean we should trust our suppliers more, or less?