The Food Battles of Europe

It all seemed straightforward ? initially.  German authorities fingered the cause of 22 deaths and hundreds of illnesses as Spanish, a vegetable nightmare from Iberia that had come in the form of the innocuous cucumber.  Spanish growers were furious at the slight.  E.coli bacteria were said to be the lethal cause, but German officials have now been conceded that there was no link between the outbreak of E. coli and the Spanish produce.

Another culprit has been selected, and even then, we can’t be too sure if that is an accurate choice, as yet.  The sprout farm in the village of Steddorf, near Bienenb?ttel, reached prominence in the news.  The owner, Klaus Verbeck, finds himself being far from the poster boy of good organic farming.  Indeed, he is stunned precisely because the salad sprouts were themselves ‘grown only from seeds and water’ without fertilisation.  Green and raw, it seems, are not always best.

That said, German scientists have not been able to pinpoint, as of yet, traces of E. coli bacteria at Verbeck’s organic, and potentially murderous idyll.  The explanation for the first round of negative test results may well lie in the fact that the contaminated produce has long been distributed.  Any such investigations, one would suspect, would be futile.

The damage has, however, been done, despite the exoneration of the cucumber.  At least six other European countries followed the German example in a hurry.   A livid Spanish agriculture minister demanded extraordinary compensation.  Russia has stolen a march on the entire EU, banning all incoming produce in one go.

The knee jerk reaction is the raison d’etre of a state’s response to disease and infection.  Whether it is bubonic plague, SARS or a bacterium that finds a home amidst vegetable matter, the blueprint rarely changes.  Russian food controllers are thrilled by this show of European frailty ? the blame game takes another shape: you, Europe, told us to impose a sanitation regime that evidently has not worked.  We, of course, know better.

The Spanish farms are suffering sizeable losses: 200 million Euros per week is an estimated number, accord to Reuters.  Seventy thousand risk joining the already burgeoning unemployment queues.  ‘There has been a drop in consumption around Europe,’ explained European commission spokesman Roger Waite.  ‘It has taken on a European-wide crisis impact so we really need to have a European-wide solution’. The city of Hamburg finds itself overwhelmed by sufferers from the bacterium, placing an enormous strain on medical facilities.  There is a general fear about eating tomatoes, lettuce and other raw vegetables coming from the northern part of Germany.

Such food borne illnesses are far from new.  Bill Marler, an attorney specialising in product liability (with the rather dubious title of being an American ‘food poisoning attorney’), claims that there have been 30 such outbreaks of illness in the US since 1990.  Radish sprouts were responsible for causing illness in 10,000 people in Japan in 1996.

One is left, instead, with the health promotion by the International Sprout Growers Association (ISGA), which announced the launch this month of International Sprout Health & Wellness Month. ‘During the month of June consumers around the world will be able to taste and learn all about these amazing vegetables, that have been called “Superfood”, and have been harvested as a low-calorie, high benefit food source for over 3,000 years.’

Blame is not action, but a one-dimensional, brutal reaction.  Common responses are retarded as a result.  If this is the kind of reaction produced by bacteria from raw vegetables in Europe, one best rush to the stove and ditch the salad altogether.

Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge.  He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne.  Email: bkampmark@gmail.com





More articles by:

Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

Weekend Edition
March 23, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Roberto J. González
The Mind-Benders: How to Harvest Facebook Data, Brainwash Voters, and Swing Elections
Paul Street
Deplorables II: The Dismal Dems in Stormy Times
Nick Pemberton
The Ghost of Hillary
Andrew Levine
Light at the End of the Tunnel?
Paul de Rooij
Amnesty International: Trumpeting for War… Again
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Coming in Hot
Chuck Gerhart
Sessions Exploits a Flaw to Pursue Execution of Meth Addicts
Robert Fantina
Distractions, Thought Control and Palestine
Hiroyuki Hamada
The Eyes of “Others” for Us All
Robert Hunziker
Is the EPA Hazardous to Your Health?
Stephanie Savell
15 Years After the Iraq Invasion, What Are the Costs?
Aidan O'Brien
Europe is Pregnant 
John Eskow
How Can We Live With All of This Rage?
Matthew Stevenson
Why Vietnam Still Matters: Was Khe Sanh a Win or a Loss?
Dan Corjescu
The Man Who Should Be Dead
Howard Lisnoff
The Bone Spur in Chief
Brian Cloughley
Hitler and the Poisoning of the British Public
Brett Wilkins
Trump Touts $12.5B Saudi Arms Sale as US Support for Yemen War Literally Fuels Atrocities
Barbara Nimri Aziz
Iraqi Landscapes: the Path of Martyrs
Brian Saady
The War On Drugs Is Far Deadlier Than Most People Realize
Stephen Cooper
Battling the Death Penalty With James Baldwin
CJ Hopkins
Then They Came for the Globalists
Philip Doe
In Colorado, See How They Run After the Fracking Dollars
Wilfred Burchett
Vietnam Will Win: Armed Propaganda
Binoy Kampmark
John Brennan’s Trump Problem
Nate Terani
Donald Trump’s America: Already Hell Enough for This Muslim-American
Steve Early
From Jackson to Richmond: Radical Mayors Leave Their Mark
Jill Richardson
To Believe in Science, You Have to Know How It’s Done
Ralph Nader
Ten Million Americans Could Bring H.R. 676 into Reality Land—Relief for Anxiety, Dread and Fear
Sam Pizzigati
Billionaires Won’t Save the World, Just Look at Elon Musk
Sergio Avila
Don’t Make the Border a Wasteland
Daryan Rezazad
Denial of Climate Change is Not the Problem
Ron Jacobs
Flashing for the Refugees on the Unarmed Road of Flight
Missy Comley Beattie
The Age of Absurdities and Atrocities
George Wuerthner
Isle Royale: Manage for Wilderness Not Wolves
George Payne
Pompeo Should Call the Dogs Off of WikiLeaks
Russell Mokhiber
Study Finds Single Payer Viable in 2018 Elections
Franklin Lamb
Despite Claims, Israel-Hezbollah War is Unlikely
Montana Wilderness Association Dishonors Its Past
Elizabeth “Liz” Hawkins, RN
Nurses Are Calling #TimesUp on Domestic Abuse
Paul Buhle
A Caribbean Giant Passes: Wilson Harris, RIP
Mel Gurtov
A Blank Check for Repression? A Saudi Leader Visits Washington
Seth Sandronsky
Hoop schemes: Sacramento’s corporate bid for an NBA All-Star Game
Louis Proyect
The French Malaise, Now and Then
David Yearsley
Bach and the Erotics of Spring