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Drama Recap
Going Forward
Feed the Fire!

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Tasty Bites 9.29.06
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Lots going on in the world of farming. Read on for a 2-minute summary of the Spinach Drama: what happened, the cause, complaints about coverage, and what to do next... Don't be scared of our local farms' greens, including spinach!

Drama Recap

187 people in 26 states have been infected with the outbreak strain of E. coli O157:H7. More than half were hospitalized, 29 developed a type of kidney failure, and one adult in Wisconsin died. Two more deaths may also be linked to this same outbreak: an 86-year-old woman in Maryland and a two-year-old in Idaho. CDC

The “smoking gun” (love that term) is packaged, conventionally-grown baby spinach under the Dole label. Dole is packaged by Natural Selections. Natural Selections is owned by Earthbound Farm in San Juan Bautista, CA. On Sept. 15, they recalled of all its bagged spinach with “use by” dates of Aug. 17 through Oct 1.

As far as packaged spinach goes: Earthbound Farm = Natural Selections = Natural Selection Foods, Dole, Pride of San Juan, Emeril, Sysco, O Organic, Trader Joe’s, Ready Pac, Cheney Brothers, Green Harvest, Tanimura & Antle, and President’s Choice.

The definitive cause of the E. coli outbreak is not known. There are several theories:

Neighboring “extensive” grain-fed cattle ranches leaching manure and/or bacteria into the groundwater. The virulent E. coli O157:H7 is found in the stomachs of cattle fed on grain; it is not found in the stomachs of cattle fed their natural diet of grass, hay, and other fibrous forage. Ties in with…

History of contamination of the area’s creeks due to the neighboring ranches as well as many rivers and tributaries feeding into central irrigation sources. Since 1995, there have actually been 18 outbreaks of E. coli among packaged, precut lettuces from that general area. (Ground wells and deep watersheds are unaffected, as their water comes from more than 100 feet underground.)

Organic farming in general. This theory is unfounded. The media contributed a lot to this confusion. Even NPR announced the outbreak had been traced to only one source: Natural Selections, “a large, organic foods supplier in California.” True, they package organic spinach as well as conventional, but every infection has been linked to Natural Selections’ conventional spinach facilities – not their organic line. In perfectly bad timing, there was also a recall of organic, raw milk right when the spinach outbreak was announced, which added to the confusion. Another source of misinformation during the outbreak is an outspoken anti-organic spokesman, who - lo and behold - has ties to Monsanto. Go figure.

Manure used in organic farming. Again, unfounded. Because the E. coli strain is found in cows, some are blaming organic farms because they “use manure to fertilize crops”. The truth is that organic farms are prohibited to use raw manure. Instead, they use composts, which - by definition - has eliminated harmful pathogens.

Going Forward

Natural Selection faces federal lawsuits in Oregon, Utah and Wisconsin. They also committed Thursday to implementing stricter sanitation requirements at its facilities, and reimbursing out-of-pocket medical expenses of victims able to trace their illness to the company’s main processing plant in San Juan Bautista, CA. Sustainable Food News

Ultimately, the industry will have to rethink how it sterilizes its produce, and how many pathogens from the soil and water are absorbed into the plant’s structure, not just washable from its surface.

The FDA will also need to step up to develop more stringent standards for farm fertilizers and irrigation sources. The same thing happened after the E. coli outbreaks in the 1990s from tainted beef. "No one is really in charge of food safety on the farm, and the FDA has come in with fairly weak guidelines there that they can only suggest but not enforce. They need direction from Congress to address standards on the farm." Center for Science in the Public Interest

For consumers:
As a consumer, local spinach from Monterey, San Benito and Santa Clara counties is safe to eat. Thoroughly cooked, frozen or canned spinach is also safe. Get on down to your local farmers' market and talk with the farmers themselves.

These past events make a clear case for knowing exactly where your food comes from, and who is growing it. Safe food options can be found on local farms.

Knowledge, peace of mind, health, and taste are worth infinitely more than the convenience of buying an anonymous, pre-washed package in a store. Not only now during this crisis, but from this point forward...


Check our organically-inclined Events page for more happenins as they are announced.

Women in Sustainable Agriculture Lecture Series
Days of the week vary, 9/21/06-12/8/06, 6:45pm-8:45pm
UC Berkeley; College of Environmental Design, Wurster Hall room 106 in Berkeley; Free

Clark Summit Farm & Tresch Dairy
Sat, 9/30/06, 10:00am-3:00pm
30201 Shoreline Hwy 1.4 miles north of Tomales; $25 MALT members / $30 non-members

World Vegetarian Day Festival
Sat-Sun, 9/30/06-10/1/06, 10:00am-6:00pm
San Francisco County Fair Bldg, Golden Gate Park, near 9th/Lincoln in SF; Free to kids, students and seniors. Also free to everyone who comes before 10:30 a.m., after which a $5 donation is suggested.

Seasonal Cooking Demonstration - John Toulze of The Girl & The Fig
Sat, 9/30/06, 10:30am-11:30am
North Arcade of the Ferry Building in CUESA's Dacor teaching kitchen. in SF; Free

Starting an Organic Winter Garden
Sat, 9/30/06, 10:30am-12:30pm
Common Ground, 559 College Ave in Palo Alto; $24

Can We Save the Last Farm in Mountain View?
Sat, 9/30/06, 8:30am-11:30am
St. Timothy's Episcopal Church, 2094 Grant Road (at Cuesta), Edwards Hall in Mountain View; Free

Eat Local Challenge
Tue, 10/3/06
400 Bon Appétit cafes in 29 states include: Yahoo!, Nordstrom, The Guthrie Theater, The Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, Case Western University, Emmanuel College – and hundreds more colleges, corporations, and specialty venues across the country

Frugal Foodies Tuesday Night Dinners
Tuesdays, 10/3/06-10/31/06, 6:30pm-9:30pm
A live-work studio in Southwest Berkeley; $7/person

Cooking Class with Rosetta Costantino: "Tomato Dinner from My Garden"
Fri, 10/6/06, 6:30pm
Paulding & Company, 1410-B 62nd St. in Emeryville; $85/person

First Annual Berkeley Sustainability Summit
Fri, 10/6/06, 9:00am-3:00pm
Location to be announced soon in Berkeley; $25

UCSC Harvest Festival
Sat, 10/7/06
UC Santa Cruz Farm in Santa Cruz; Free

Hoes Down Harvest Festival at Full Belly Farm
Sat-Sun, 10/7/06-10/8/06
Fully Belly Farm in Capay Valley; $15/adults; $5/kids 2-12; Free/kids under 2. Camping is $20/car.

Seasonal Cooking Demonstration - Keith Hammerich of City College of San Francisco
Sat, 10/7/06, 10:00am-11:00am
North Arcade of the Ferry Building in CUESA's Dacor teaching kitchen. in SF; Free

East Bay Environmental Training
Saturdays, 10/7/06-11/11/06, 10:00am-4:00pm
Various locations throughout the East Bay; $75 - $150, sliding scale. (One year Ecology Center membership included.)

Celebrating Marin Family Farms at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market
Sat, 10/7/06, 11:00am-12:00pm
North Arcade of the Ferry Building in CUESA's Dacor teaching kitchen. in SF; Free

Knoll Farms: Visit - Sweating - Eating!!!
Sun, 10/8/06, 10:00am
Knoll Farm, 12510 Byron Highway in Brentwood; Free!

Harvest Day at the Farm
Sun, 10/8/06, 10:00am-5:00pm
Nicasio Valley Farms Pumpkin Patch, 1/4 mile north of Nicasio Square in Nicasio; Free

The 4th Annual North Berkeley Spice of Life Festival
Sun, 10/8/06, 10:00am-6:00pm
Shattuck Avenue ~ Virginia to Rose in Berkeley; Free

CUESA's Annual Sunday Supper
Sun, 10/8/06, 6:00pm
Ferry Building in SF; $150 per person

Franklin Street Whole Foods 10th Anniversary Bash
Tue, 10/10/06, 5:00pm-8:00pm
Whole Foods, Franklin St./California in SF; Free

The Politics of Food at the Commonwealth Club INFORUM
Tue, 10/10/06, 6:30pm check-in; 7:00pm program; 8:00pm wine and hors d'oeuvres
Commonwealth Club office, 595 Market St., 2nd Floor in SF; $12 for Club Members and Litquake Subscribers, $20 for Non-Members

Cooking Class: Small Plates from Millennium Restaurant at Whole Foods
Tue, 10/10/06, 6:30pm-8;30pm
Whole Foods, 1010 Park Place in San Mateo; $38

Convert a Carnivore Day at Millennium
Wed, 10/11/06
Millennium Restaurant, 580 Geary St. in SF; 25% off!

Slow Food SF Dinner at Medicine Restaurant
Thu, 10/12/06, 5:00pm (check-in & sake); 5:30pm-9:00pm (dinner; starts promptly!)
Medicine Restaurant, 161 Sutter St. @ the Crocker Galleria in SF; $50, all-inclusive

Film Screening: The Future of Food
Thu, 10/12/06, 7:00pm-9:00pm
Ecology Center, 2530 San Pablo Ave, near Dwight Way in Berkeley; Free

Feed the Fire!

Even a little snack! If you use these newsletters, use our website, or simply enjoy having delicious, organic food in the Bay Area, please support our programs that serve local, organic farms and the community. Om Organics is a project of the San Francisco Foundation - Community Initiative Funds, and can only continue with the help of contributions from conscientious people like you!

Any amount is appreciated!
You can make a donation:

  • via to
  • by credit card: via the SFF CIF donation page
  • by check: "Om Organics: Project of SFF CIF", 225 Bush St. #500, SF, CA 94104


© 2006 Om Organics 9.29.06-59