Over the past few days, fresh food retailers and supermarkets across Australia have recalled packaged lettuce and removed these products from their shelves due to a disgraceful outbreak of salmonella poisoning from Victorian company Tripod Farmers.
I say disgraceful because has anyone learnt anything from the Nannas frozen berry food poisoning outbreak last year! It appears not… The Department of Health & Services here in Australia has confirmed at least 54 cases of people becoming violently ill after eating packaged salad leaves infected by the potentially deadly salmonella bacteria.
The first thing that comes to my mind is how can this contamination happen? Salmonella is usually linked to and contracted by eating contaminated MEAT so how has this bacteria found its way into a PLANT product and in such numbers that it became a health issue!? Something stinks big time and I wonder if the public will ever find out what it was EXACTLY that caused this obscene failure in hygiene and food handling.
Besides the supermarkets other retailers of packaged meals such as Lite & Easy (Lite & Lazy – I call it) have recalled their products containing suspected contaminated salad leaves – so the damage is very wide spread indeed. I would be surprised if this incident doesn't damage the company responsible and other similar producers irreversibly and it probably should because a contamination scare like this is inexcusable!
Protect yourself from contaminated fresh fruit & vegetables
You know what I'm going to say/write next don't you… Please grow your own salad greens! It's so easy – that's why big companies do it because they can easily grow the crops via hydroponics and then sell them onto consumers for huge profits.
If it's cute baby leaf salad greens you're after, then buy a packet or two of mixed salad seeds sow them thicker than usual in a garden bed or container and in about 14 days you'll have a continuous supply of crisp, healthy, uncontaminated, baby salad greens that are the best you've ever tasted! It's simply a matter of snipping the tops of the plants with a scissors as they grow (and as needed) to keep the plants regenerating fresh new leaves to eat.
From my garden – it's easy! (image above)
The beauty of growing salad crops at home (besides being easy to germinate and grow) is they don't take up much space and they don't mind constant harvesting. You don't need a hydroponics set-up or anything like that – just a garden bed or a few pots or even hanging baskets will do as long as they are watered regularly and given a small feed of fertiliser every few weeks they'll grow awesome under most conditions.
Think also about some of the new trends in salad greens like different varieties of Asian greens check out this article or even the "micro greens" movement, which has a lot of great ideas – just Google it…
Move away from packaged fresh foods
I know it's convenient and sometimes it's unavoidable, however, we really should be trying to limit the amount of packaged fresh food we consume.
This salmonella contamination in loose leaf packaged salad greens should be a wake-up call for everyone – it is becoming ridiculous that we should be plastic wrapping/bagging our most basic fresh foods just for the sake of saving a few seconds in the kitchen. Furthermore, it's this type of consumer behaviour that encourages companies to use more environmentally unfriendly packaging so at the end of the day it's our fault.
Take your heath into your own hands and don't reward these types of terrible missteps by big food companies through growing your own salad greens. It would be near impossible for your home-grown produce to become contaminated with salmonella so it seems incredible to me that this happened in Victoria but some how it did!
Nature sometimes has a funny way of sending us messages and perhaps this time she's saying lettuce shouldn't be bagged in plastic or else…