Listeria Hysteria: Why We Need To Pay More Attention To Our Nation’s Produce

On July 19, 2014, a California packaging company voluntarily recalled fruits packaged between June 1 and July 12 due to a possible Listeria outbreak. The recall was placed in an abundance of caution, as the fruit has yet to be linked to any illnesses.

The possibility of contamination was found upon internal company testing, but the facility has since been sanitized and all tests for Listeria have come back negative.

The produce in question comes from Wawona Packing Company. It lists specific packages as having been affected but does not know exactly where said packages were shipped.

As such, it is issuing a nationwide recall of peaches, nectarines and plums, including any baked goods made from these potentially contaminated items. The recall affects popular vendors, including Trader Joe’s, Aldi and Giant Food Stores.

Never heard of Listeria before today? Neither had I. Listeria monocytogenes bacteria is actually commonly found in soil and water, according to the Center of Disease Control (CDC).

It can be carried by animals even when they don’t appear ill and contaminates foods of animal origin, such as meats and dairy products. Food can also become contaminated by Listeria bacteria in a processing facility.

If Listeria is a soil organism, how would it get into a processing facility? Well, dirt and soil is constantly being tracked into these facilities where entryway sanitizers aren’t used. As the organisms get in, they find their way to drains or air handling systems and spread from there.

Due to its potentially fatal and graphic effects, including spontaneous abortions, the public has taken note of this threat and acted accordingly.

In my opinion, however, this incident only serves to highlight a bigger problem in our nation today: poor soil quality and an increasing decline in the nutritional content of our supposedly “fresh” foods.

We have become so obsessed with mass-producing bigger and better produce that we have let quality and our standards fall to the wayside.

Soil depletion is a serious problem in our world today; modern agricultural methods have stripped nutrients from the soil in which we’re growing our food. As a result, each generation of rapidly growing, pest-resistant fruit is less healthy than the one before.

US Department of Agriculture nutritional data from both 1950 and 1999 lists 43 different fruits and vegetables and shows a steady decline in the amount of protein, calcium, iron, Vitamin B2 and Vitamin C found in them over the past few decades.

It is so bad that today, you would need to eat nearly 30 apples to gain the rough iron equivalent of one apple from the year 1950.

It all started with the introduction of mechanized farming in the 1920s, which depleted our soil faster than the microorganisms could replenish it.

Then, instead of replenishing the mineral content to fix the microorganism and mineral balance and combat pests the natural way, we introduced chemical farming in the 1950s.

In the 90s, we experimented with genetic mutation of produce. Today, as a result of our efforts, we have fruits and vegetables that are more abundant and generally bigger, but nowhere near better.

The problem is, as our soil nutrients are diminished, the risk of disease rises. Some studies have even linked the swine flu epidemic to poor soil content, theorizing that the affected pigs were fed nutrient deficient food that didn’t allow them to properly combat the virus.

While there’s no denying the dangers an outbreak of Listeria would pose, there are equally dire dangers posed by the nutrient deficient produce we eat every day. Rates of heart conditions, asthma, bronchitis and bone deformities have all increased as soil nutrients decrease.

The problem is especially troubling because we believe that by eating these foods, we’re being healthy and getting the vitamins and minerals our bodies need.

Unfortunately, while that may have been the case for our parents, Generation-Y has no such luck.

So pay close attention your produce. Be wary of your nutritional intake and any deficiencies in your diet. Take vitamins or drink nutritional shakes if you need to address a possible problem in your health as a result of malnutrition.

The sad truth is, in today’s day and age, our fruits and vegetables just aren't cutting it anymore.

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