Monday, June 06, 2011

Salad days

It is entirely understandable that people should show extreme caution in what they eat following the outbreak of cases of E coli in Europe. The death toll in Germany has risen to 22 and there are 2,200 reported cases. Hospitals in the country are stretched to the limit, they are considering bringing doctors out of retirement and nurses are being recruited from southern Germany to try and cope with the problem in the north. Over crowded hospitals filled with patients suffering from diarrhoea does not sound good. Even if you weren’t that ill when admitted, the chances are you would be after a few days stay.

The problems that this scare has created throughout the whole of Europe are immense. Supermarkets are reporting a huge drop in sales of all salad crops and not just cucumbers that were first suspected as carriers of the bacteria. Growers throughout the continent are having to throw away all manner of vegetables which are picked and ready for transportation. In this area of Spain the cucumbers have finished, it is the red peppers that are now being shunned by buyers. Has anybody actually mentioned red peppers as a possible carrier of the bacteria?

Ironically, agricultural officials in Germany are now saying that bean sprouts grown in one organic farm between Hamburg and Hanover are the likely cause of the illness. If that is true, then millions of Euros worth of salad crops have been wasted for nothing and all because someone wrongfully pointed the finger at Spanish cucumbers in the first place. They were right to be cautious but wrong to create such widespread panic before they were a little clearer in their facts.

The real culprit though is the system that spread the misinformation to the public. Such is the power and speed of communications these day, that the mere suggestion of a possible source of the problem was enough to scare people of eating anything that could remotely cause them to contact the deadly bacteria. Now that the damage is done, it will be very hard to repair. People will not go back to eating salads again until they are absolutely sure of their safety but by then there may be very few cheap salad crops available to them.

I’m sorry but the cucumbers that you now want for sandwiches at afternoon tea are all in a skip somewhere in Almeria!

No comments: