Upside: I’m Two Pounds Lighter!

Cape San Blas
mullet and bass
cheap sunglass
sand flea and crabgrass
beachy landmass*

Had big, relaxing fun last week in the greater Port St. Joe/Cape San Blas/Apalachicola region of the Florida panhandle (billed as the "Forgotten Coast" or more locally "Florida’s Last Stand").  The bays are filled with fishies, the gulf is turquoise and rimmed with soft white sand. Highly under-developed, it’s truly paradise for anyone who likes to boat, fish, kayak, and run with your hounds on empty, wide, dog-friendly beaches.  I’ve got fodder for a couple of posts, but will postpone the flora/landscape observations until next week. 

The news of the awful outbreak of a particularly virulent and dangerous strain of Escherichia coli in Europe coincided with my own mid-vacation, not-so-pleasant experience. Twenty-four hours of bed-bound, trash-can-gripping, don’t stray far from bathroom non-activity while paying for a beach house and boat rental gave me some time to think deep thoughts about food safety.   Salad, meat, seafood, and cream sauces were all involved. I could have ingested one of any number of sweat-and-barf-inducing microorganisms. Being off food and drink for another couple of days wasn’t ideal either. I didn’t go on vacation intending to detox (rather, "to tox").  But at least I was up and about. Renal failure and death takes the E. coli strain O104 to a whole ‘nother level. 

In digging for a bit more information, the usual safe food handling advice has been trotted out in regards to this vicious beast; wash, peel, cook, etc.  But a microbiologist at a Scottish agricultural research center (The James Hutton Institute) has noted there are strains of E. coli “associated with plants, not animals.”  Dr. Nicola Holden says that the bacteria “are not simply sitting on the surface of the plants and are particularly difficult to remove post-harvest.” She goes on to state that these particular bacteria colonize the root system and then “have the opportunity to move to the edible foliage or fruits.”  Yes, E. coli is a motile organism; that’s one way to get from the soil to your salad, but there is evidence it can invade the tissue and move within the plant; no amount of peeling or washing will help. Dr. Jeff LeJeune’s lab at Ohio State was taking a look at this several years ago, especially how E.coli can enter through points of damage from mechanical injury or plant pathogens.  Haven’t had a chance to dig any deeper, but will be having a chat with a friend from our Food Science and Technology Department to find out more. 

*apologies to the Car Talk guys, but I always wanted to do that.

4 thoughts on “Upside: I’m Two Pounds Lighter!”

  1. Poor Holly!
    I’ve been particularly curious about possible links between increased E. coli outbreaks and the use of compost tea on organically grown vegetables. The most serious downside about using aerated compost tea is that if it’s been enriched with molasses or another sugar source that it also tends to be rich in E. coli and/or Salmonella.
    So far I’ve found nothing in the research literature about this, but I do continue to wonder, as do some of my colleagues who follow the compost tea thing.

  2. Eh, there were worse places to be ill 😉

    I’m with you on the compost tea issue – maybe we should team up with some food scientist types and just do it! In o
    ur spare time, of course.

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