vegansaurus!

10/26/2011

On Listeria, Cantaloupe, and Cows: A Rant  »


Rarr! Cantaloupe are scary now. That sucks. Though this one from chrisdonia on Flickr is obviously cute and awesome.

You’ve most likely heard about the whole huge Listeria food-poisoning thing going on, right? If not: Twenty-five people have died and more may still from food poisoning that, it turns out, came from eating cantaloupe from Jensen Farms in Colorado that was contaminated with Listeria bacteria (which I love saying and laugh every time I hear, even though Listeria bacteria are nasty little buggers).

This outbreak saga has been dragging on for a couple months now, and because it started in Colorado, I ended up hearing about it pretty early on, before they’d even figured out the cause. At first, all the news stories talked about how Listeria most often shows up in processed meats and cheeses. “Ick!” I thought. “Luckily the vegans are safe.”

THEN it turned out that the deadly stuff was coming from cantaloupe. And that’s when I got mad.

I’d just finished reading the excellent Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer, of which he devotes a big chunk to detailing the connection between CAFOs (factory farms) and infectious disease. The gist: We’re all gonna die of the plague because of the horrible diseases that thrive in those hellholes, whether we support them or not.

Thus it was with great confidence that I began proclaiming that the cantaloupe thing was going to trace back to factory farming somehow. Poor plants, taking the fall for what was at heart a systemic problem with the meat industry. Anything that makes people eat less fruit is a national tragedy in my book.

Well, last week the FDA release their first report about their investigation into Jensen Farms.

And?

I was right. Kind of.

Turns out that gross equipment in Jensen’s fruit-packing house helped spread the Listeria. And no one can be quite sure where the bacteria came from. But the FDA’s best theory is that a particular truck that hauled damaged fruit to a cow farm might have brought the bacteria back.

I wish the evidence were clearer-cut. Obviously the cantaloupe farmers messed up, and it’s not all the meat industry’s fault. BUT STILL. I challenge you all to be agents of the cantaloupe’s resurrection. Buy melons when they’re in season! Eat them! Don’t get poisoned—buy from small farmers and wash the outsides! But redeem the poor cantaloupe!

And let’s get rid of factory farms, already.

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