Monday, August 25, 2008

Is Cow Manure Bad?

Craig and I do NOT sell cow manure at The PURE Gardener because we have not been able to locate anyone that can determine what the cows have eaten IE: free range, locked up and corn fed, hormones, antibiotics, chemical free hay or alfalfa, grass and the like. Until we can find a good source of cow manure, one that traces exactly what their source is and how the cows are raised, we will continue to NOT carry it.

Please read

The following was taken from AOL Health...

Leafy, green, healthful - but contaminated

Content provided by the Faculty of the Harvard Medical School

Leafy, green, healthful - but contaminated

The E. coli outbreak from bagged spinach is a reminder that fruit and vegetables can harbor harmful bacteria.

If you're to count yourself among the nutritionally virtuous, you eat plenty of fruit and vegetables, and spinach is the standard-bearer for the leafy, green vegetables that are most virtuous of all.

But sometimes it seems that, like good deeds, no act of good nutrition goes unpunished. As we went to press in September 2006, three Americans had died and almost 200 had gotten sick from eating spinach that had been contaminated with the O157:H7 strain of the Escherichia coli bacterium. For several weeks the FDA contradicted the timeless nag "eat your spinach" with an advisory that we should avoid the stuff altogether if it was bagged. This isn't the first time that E. coli–contaminated spinach has made people sick. In a 2003 outbreak in the United States, 16 illnesses were reported and two people died.

A bad tenant

Most strains of E. coli are welcome, indeed essential, residents of the gut. In exchange for intestinal food and lodging, they keep out harmful bacteria and synthesize vitamins. E. coli O157:H7 is a rogue strain that spews out toxins similar to those produced by Shigella dysenteriae, a source of epidemics of deadly diarrhea in the developing world.

Health officials estimate that roughly 70,000 Americans get sick every year from eating food contaminated with E. coli O157:H7, and perhaps as many as 60 die. Symptoms include bad abdominal cramps and diarrhea, which is usually watery at first before turning bloody. Most people recover after several days of gastrointestinal misery without any special treatment (antibiotics are useless). A small proportion of people, usually young children and older adults, are vulnerable to developing severe complications that include kidney damage and death.

Cow manure as the culprit

Cattle carry E. coli O157:H7 in their roomy intestines, so considerable amounts of the bacteria wind up in cow feces. In the past, most cases of E. coli illness were the result of tiny specks of fecal matter getting mixed into meat, chiefly ground beef, during meat processing. You may remember the Jack in the Box restaurant outbreak in 1993 when people got sick eating E. coli–contaminated hamburgers.

But now cow manure is being used heavily as a fertilizer in organic farming, which may have moved the problem of E. coli contamination from the slaughterhouse to the farmfield. By October, FDA and California officials had narrowed their investigation to four ranches in Monterey and San Benito counties. Furthermore, genetic tests had shown that the E. coli in cow feces taken from one of those ranches matched the strain of the bacteria responsible for the spinach outbreak. The investigation wasn't finished as of this writing, but the evidence was pointing to cow manure as being the source of the outbreak. Other possibilities included wildlife or poor worker hygiene.

A corn-fed problem

Some research suggests that the way cattle are raised and fed these days is making the E. coli problem worse, perhaps even creating it. The study results are by no means uniform, but there's good evidence that the intestines of corn-fed cattle are more hospitable to the O157:H7 strain than those raised on grass. USDA researchers reported in 2005 that certain compounds (phenolic acids) contained in grass killed off E. coli O157:H7 in large numbers.

But the cattle industry is increasingly dominated by huge feedlots where the animals are kept in close quarters and fed mainly corn. It's not likely to switch back to grazing cattle for long periods of time soon because cattle grow faster if they are fed corn. An excellent book on agricultural practices and the problems they're creating is The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan.

Give it a good soaking

So far, the advice to consumers has been about what you might expect. Cooking isn't an option for lettuce, but it is for spinach. Temperatures of 160ยบ F will kill any O157:H7 in about 15 seconds. Otherwise, the main message has been to be extra careful about washing fruits and vegetables. Some official Web sites recommend removing the outer leaves of leafy vegetables because bacteria are "sticky." Even if there is rind or outside skin that you're not going to eat, you're supposed to clean it off because studies have shown that a knife can transfer bacteria from the inedible outer portion of a fruit or vegetable to the flesh inside.

Mostly we're told to just rinse off our produce. A lot of people don't even do that, so keeping the advice to a minimum is a good idea. But if you want to be on the safe side, you should probably soak your produce in water for a couple of minutes first and then rinse it off, according to findings reported by researchers at Tennessee State University in Nashville in 2006.

Their experiment involved contaminating apples, broccoli, lettuce, and tomatoes with a harmless, experimental bacterium, Listeria innocua. For apples, lettuce, and tomatoes, but not broccoli, a good two-minute soak and then a rinse washed off more bacteria than just a rinse. They soaked the lettuce in vinegar and lemon juice solutions and in a commercial product, Veggie Wash, but the results were no better than when they used cold tap water.

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