There have been lots of news reports and blog posts on the recent E. coli outbreak in Germany, which was responsible for 30 deaths and more than 3,000 illnesses. E. coli outbreaks and other foodborne illnesses are a serious issue in any country that has a large, complicated food system that makes it hard to trace where your food comes from. Here are a few articles that give more details on the outbreak, its possible causes, and the best way to protect yourself from foodborne illnesses.
- Marion Nestle on Food Politics has a great Q&A article: The German E. coli outbreak
- She also posted another article at the Atlantic: Europe's E. Coli outbreak
- Civil Eats has a shorter version of the Atlantic piece: European E. coli outbreak could happen here
- Mark Bittman on the NYTimes has a long but informative article: Experts weigh in on worrisome toxin
These articles can be frightening, but it's important to remember that knowing where your food comes from will help eliminate the threat of E. coli and other contaminants. Food that is grown locally on small farms goes through less processing and travel, and is easier to trace if there is a problem.
And if you don't have time to read the articles, here is a bit of concise advice (from Bill Marler, via Mark Bittman's article) on how to protect yourself from foodborne illnesses:
“Eat simply, locally, things that you wash well, cook well and process yourself. Wash your hands and keep your kitchen clean — especially the dish rag. Keep cold things cold and hot things hot. Keep meat and unwashed vegetables away from ready to eat food. Have a glass of good red wine.
“Think about eating mass-produced raw meat and produce like you are swimming in a pool with a thousand people you don’t know. Think of eating as described above as sitting in a bath with your significant other — hopefully less risky and much more fun.”