The bacterium that has sickened people across the nation and forced growers to destroy spinach crops is so pervasive in the Salinas Valley that virtually every waterway there violates national standards.
"There are many sources of water coming into the watershed, and I guarantee you that they all have generic E. coli," and many carry the deadly E. coli strain linked to food poisonings, said Christopher Rose, an environmental scientist at the state's Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board, which tests the region's waterways.
Monterey County's Salinas Valley is one of the world's most intensely farmed regions and a major supplier of lettuce and spinach to the nation. The current outbreak of food poisoning marks the 20th time since 1995 that the dangerous E. coli strain has been linked to lettuce or spinach.
The source of the pathogen has not yet been pinpointed, but tainted water is considered a likely culprit.
Many creeks and streams near the region's spinach fields, including the Salinas River, Gabilan Creek, Towne Creek, Tembladero Slough and Old Salinas River Estuary, are known to be carriers of the E. coli strain implicated in the food poisonings. When consumed, people experience cramping, diarrhea and, in severe cases, kidney failure.
Although the growers do not draw water from creeks to irrigate their fields, their crops could be tainted by runoff from nearby livestock operations or Central Coast urban areas.
I just had the awful thought that some Hindu somewhere has violated his dietary restrictions against beef, er, byproducts, yeah, that's it, by eating a salad.
Folks on the Central Coast are very nice, though.
Something to think about on your next trip to the salad bar. All of a sudden, the deep-fried county fair food (previous post) don't sound so bad after all. Krispy Kreme chicken sandwich, anyone?