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Marler Blog Providing Commentary on Food Poisoning Outbreaks & Litigation

Food Safety Law Firm Marler Clark Gives $5,000 for Oregon Small Farm Food Safety

Screen Shot 2011-08-09 at 2.40.16 PM.pngIn the wake of the Oregon Public Health announcement that at least 10 people, including one woman who died, became ill with E. coli O157:H7 infections after eating fresh strawberries sold at farmers markets and roadside fruit stands in Oregon, the Seattle-based food safety law firm Marler Clark announced today that it is donating $5,000 to the Portland-based Food Alliance. The firm is asking that the donation be used to promote small agriculture food safety.

Oregon Public Health investigators suspect the strawberries may have become contaminated with E. coli by deer roaming the fields.  “Any fruit or vegetable that is grown on the ground can get contaminated in a variety of ways,” said Marler Clark Managing Partner William Marler.  “During the 2006 spinach E. coli outbreak, investigators suspected contamination by wild boars as a potential source of contamination in spinach fields.  Now Oregon suspects deer.  Whether it’s Local or Big Ag, proper precautions must be taken to prevent field contamination of fresh produce.”

According to its Website, the Food Alliance “provides comprehensive third-party certification for social and environmental responsibility in agriculture and the food industry.”

“It is our hope that this donation will ensure that best practices promoting improved food safety among small farms become more widely available,” Marler added, noting this is the first known E. coli O157:H7 outbreak linked to fresh strawberries.  “Small farms may not have the same degree of resources or access to knowledge about food safety practices as larger food producers, but a lack of these things is no excuse when it comes to a deadly E. coli outbreak.  This unfortunate outbreak provides a perfect opportunity for the strawberry industry to immediately reflect on its practices, and find ways to prevent the contamination problems that other segments of the produce industry have seen.”

  • “Any fruit or vegetable that is grown on the ground can get contaminated in a variety of ways,” said Marler Clark Managing Partner William Marler.
    Awhile ago, I watched a video taken at a large commercial farm in Europe where they grew their strawberries up on tables that were waist high. That made it much easier for the farmworkers to pick the berries. Just the other day, a friend showed me three long boxes he built to grow his strawberries in that were about thigh-high. He told me he was tired of bending down to pick the berries and was quite sure that planting them up off the ground would keep them safer from pests. I grow some of my strawberries in a hydroponic (automatic) vertical garden. Compared to the ones I grow in my garden, they’re almost pest free.
    Just some thoughts about alternatives, which wouldn’t work on large-scale farms devoted solely to strawberries, of course, but could work for a smaller-scale farm.

  • Peter Hurley

    Thank you Bill!

  • Carlotta Parsons

    I have been using a vegetable wash spray on all vegetable and fruits. It claims to wash off pesticides, wax and chemicals. Would this also be effective for E. coli?

  • You may find this article interesting
    Name(s) Project Number
    Do Fruit and Vegetable Washes Really Work?
    The objective is to determine if the commercially available fruit and vegetable wash products remove bacteria better than dilute vinegar or water alone.
    Five fruit and vegetable wash products, dilute vinegar and water were used to clean organically grown(no pesticides) tomatoes. The tomatoes were then cultured on blood agar plates and incubated for 48 hours at 37 degrees celcius.The plates were removed from the incubator and photographed. Bacterial colony
    counts and area of growth were measured for each plate. The data was recorded in tables and bar graphs.
    Washing with water or dilute vinegar solutions resulted in 80-90% reduction in bacterial colony growth.
    Three of the commercially available fruit and vegetable washes were comparable to water alone. Two of these products actually did worse.
    Several of these products advertise that they are 300-400% more effective than rinising with water alone. None of these claims were proven true according to this experiment. In fact these products showed little,
    if any, benefit. Currently, the Federal Government does not have standardized testing methods for fruit and vegetable washes and advises consumers to rinse all produce with water.
    I compared the effectiveness of 5 fruit and vegetable washes to dilute vinegar and water alone.
    Dr. Michael Richardson, Pathologist, at St. Francis Hospital, in Santa Barbara, provided the petri dishes, incubator and photographic equipment. My parents helped with obtaining the tomatoes and the vegetable washes.
    another study – A comparison of the antibacterial effectiveness of commercial fruit and vegetable washes using an Escherichia coli zone of inhibition test and an optical density test to measure bacterial presence on the surface of organic versus non-organic apples
    “I concluded that perhaps the fruit and vegetable washes do not have antibacterial effects on fruits and vegetables unless they are used as the directions intend. Each of the three bottles specified to put the product on the fruit or vegetable and then scrub the surface”