“DON’T eat your vegetables!”
A lot of children would love to hear their mom utter that phrase when, at dinnertime, they find themselves facing a plate of peas or creamed onions or a plate of dreaded broccoli florets. Now, with the news of the E. coli outbreak in Germany (finally attributed to bean sprouts NOT cucumbers) they would seem to have good reason to demand side dishes of macaroni and cheese or wavy potato chips. No more cauliflower! No more beets!
But it’s not going to happen, thankfully, because vegetables not only remain delicious and wholesome but they are safe, too. That’s right; mothers can make Hungarian cucumber salad (see recipe below) without worrying that the outbreak of E. coli in Germany will affect them here.
Still, that’s not to say that our food supply is always safe and pure. We’ve experienced far too many recalls to trust in that. In fact, it is the humble bean sprout and cousins that pose one of the most consistent health threats to us. According to Mr. Christopher Braden of the Center for Disease Control, “Sprouts are kind of famous in our playbook because they can be what we call a ‘stealth vehicle’ for food borne outbreaks—they are typically not served alone and people don’t recall that they’ve eaten sprouts.(1)” As a result, of course, it is harder for people like Mr. Braden and his colleagues at CDC to pinpoint the origin and cause of the outbreak.
The reason for the contamination doesn’t lie in the sprouts, themselves, but in the way they are now grown commercially. Sprout factory farms have millions of seeds bathing in nice warm water waiting to, well, sprout. As it so happens, nice warm water is like an all-expenses-paid vacation for E. coli. The next thing you know, they’ve gone from a ‘hot tub incubator’ to your sandwich or salad and then the fun begins. Now the wheel of fortune spins again and it is the particular strain of E. coli that becomes an issue. Will it be one of the many harmless or useful strains or will it be, as in Germany, one that makes us very, very ill? Even though sprouts are usually safe and delicious, and even though E. coli is usually harmless, it’s best if you boil sprouts before eating them. I also recommend that for the time being you forego sprouts in restaurants and sandwich shops. I’m sure the children won’t mind!
But let’s go back to the point about “strains” of E. coli. The World Health Organization was able to quickly identify E. coli O157:H7 as a new strain that hadn’t been seen before. It seems that the strain is a sort of mutant (not surprising) that managed to contain lethal genes from at least two other E. coli bacterium. This strain is nasty. It has killed over 21 people in Germany and Sweden and sickened over 1,500 others. And not just diarrhea sick. This bug causes kidney failure and puts survivors on dialysis.
Regarding the mutation of this strain, Hilde Kruse of the World Health Organization pointed out that it’s not uncommon for bacteria strains to evolve and swap genes. “There’s a lot of mobility in the microbial world,” she is quoted as saying.
The bigger picture, of course, has to do with food safety, in general. Rinsing fruits and vegetables is a good practice to get into but even then we run the risk of ingesting some unpleasant bacteria strain and suffering because of it.
Our first line of defense has to be our immune systems. A healthy immune system can recognize an unwanted intruder and render it harmless or minimize the bad effects. Usually. Additionally, a healthy immune system is better equipped to adapt and respond to a bug it hasn’t encountered before. The best way to achieve that sort of strong immune system is by maximizing the health of our personal gut microflora and that’s where probiotic supplements like Vidazorb® come in. By restoring lost or damaged bacterial colonies, probiotic supplements allow the human gut to regain a balanced ecology that supports the work of a healthy, efficient immune system.
So it was sprouts this time and NOT cucumbers or tomatoes or lettuce but it could have been. Remember the spinach scare of 2006? A strain of E. coli hitched a ride on a spinach crop out of California that was exposed to contaminated irrigation water. Children rejoiced as spinach bonfires sprang up across the land. Do you recall the hamburger recall of 2009 that affected approximately 545,699 pounds of ground beef? Many people became quite ill and some died because oversight was lax and the meat became contaminated. I mention this to point out that there are bugs assaulting us and our immune systems all the time so our immune systems work ALL THE TIME fighting these intruders and carpetbaggers and claim jumpers. If you are unaware of this battle, credit your gut microflora for keeping the peace like Matt Dillon. By taking probiotic bacteria like Vidazorb on a regular basis you give your body the tools it needs to keep your gut safe and your immune system strong. Remember, You Are What You Absorb.
Hungarian Cucumber Salad
- 3 cucumbers
- Salt to taste
- 1 onion
- Freshly ground pepper to taste
- 2 tablespoons white vinegar (or red vinegar or apple cider vinegar)
- About a half cup of sour cream
- Fresh sweet paprika to taste
- Some people also add dill and/or garlic—I leave that up to you.
- Peel the cucumbers and slice into very thin rounds. Sprinkle with salt and let stand for 15 to 20 minutes
- Squeeze out the liquid from the cucumbers. I use a clean dish towel. Try not to crush the slices. Drain, pat the cucumbers dry and discard the liquid.
- Meanwhile, slice the onion very thin and add the salt, pepper, vinegar and water to cover.
- Slice the onion very thin and mix with cucumbers. Add the salt, pepper, white vinegar, and half the sour cream to cover the vegetables. Top with a dollop of sour cream. Sprinkle paprika generously on top and you are ready!
(1) CDC – http://www.presstv.ir/detail/184190.html