Monday, August 23, 2010

SOME OBSERVATIONS ON SALMONELLA, GLOBAL WARMING, AND HISTORY



I want to depart for a bit here to talk about a recent story on the national news about the outbreak of salmonella where millions of eggs were recalled. A portion of a recent article on Web MD stated:

Aug. 19, 2010 -- Eggs are behind a nationwide salmonella outbreak that caused hundreds of illnesses each week in June and July.

The nationwide egg recall has expanded to include eggs made from five plants owned by Wright County Egg of Galt, Iowa. It now involves more than a dozen major brands that got eggs from this company. The New York Times reports that the recall now includes 380 million eggs.

Eggs were traced to the company after the CDC noticed a four-fold increase in Salmonella Enteritidis isolates from people suffering food poisoning. State investigators in California, Colorado, and Minnesota found clusters of illness from this salmonella strain among people who ate eggs at the same restaurants. Those restaurants got eggs that came from Wright County Egg.

Investigations continue in Arizona, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maryland, North Carolina, Nevada, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Texas. According to a CDC spokeswoman, the outbreak is "pretty much nationwide."

Various other news reports in the media say much the same thing. This particular outbreak is just one of several reported by Web MD in the month of August alone (which isn’t over). Here’s their list:
• August 20, 2010 - Milton's Baking Voluntarily Recalls 24 oz. Multi-Grain Bread in Three States For Undeclared Milk in Some Loaves12
• August 20, 2010 - Lubersk i Inc., Initiates Voluntary Recall of Large Fresh Shell Eggs Because of Possible Health Risk13
• August 20, 2010 - Hillandale Farms of Iowa Conducts Nationwide Voluntary Recall of Shell Eggs Because of Possible Health Risk14
• August 20, 2010 - GloryBee Foods Recalls Whole Raw Pistachio and Whole Raw Pistachio Kernels Because of Possible Health Risk15
• August 19, 2010 - COUNTRY Eggs, Inc. Initiates Voluntary Recall of Large AA Loose 15 dozen Fresh Shell Eggs Because of Possible Health Risk16
• August 19, 2010 - Austinuts Wholesale, Inc. Announces Voluntary Recall of Pistachio Kernel Products17
• August 19, 2010 - Salmonella in Alfalfa Sprouts18
• August 18, 2010 - Wright County Egg Expands Nationwide Voluntary Recall of Shell Eggs Because of Possible Health Risk19
• August 18, 2010 - Moonstruck Chocolate Co. Issues Nationwide Allergy Alert on Undeclared Peanut-Butter Filling in Their 4 Piece Cream Cone Chocolate Truffle Collection and 12 Piece Chocolate Malted (or Malt) Cream Cone Chocolate Truffles20
• August 18, 2010 - Glow Industries, Inc. Issues Nationwide Recall of Mr. Magic Male Enhancer from Don Wands Amended21
• August 18, 2010 - J & H Besta Expands Nationwide Recall of Slim- 30 Herb Supplement to Include Lot 6032101 Found to Contain an Undeclared Drug Ingredient22
• August 18, 2010 - Montalvan’s Sales, Inc. Recalls “La Nuestra” Brand Frozen Mamey Because of Potential Health Risk23
• August 17, 2010 - NBTY Acquisition LLC Dba Leiner Health Products Issues Allergy Alert on Undeclared Soy in Air Shield Effervescent Tablets, Air Protector Effervescent Tablets, Immune System Support Effervescent, and Airhealth Effervescent Tablets And Stick Packs24
• August 17, 2010 - Undeclared Sulfites in "Golden Bridge" Dried Dates25
• August 17, 2010 - NuCal Foods Conducts Recall of Shell Eggs Supplied from Wright County Egg Because of Possible Health Risk26
• August 16, 2010 - Elie Baking Corp issues Allergy Alert on Undeclared Soy in Food City brand Low-Carb Tortilla White and Whole Wheat 10 count27
• August 14, 2010 - Nationwide Milk Allergen Recall of Kroger "Meals Made Simple Shrimp Linguini"28
• August 13, 2010 - Goya Foods, Inc. Announces Voluntary Recall of Frozen Mamey Pulp, Produced By Coco, S.A. of Guatemala Because of Potential Health Risk29
• August 13, 2010 - Wright County Egg Conducts Nationwide Voluntary Recalls of Shell Eggs Because of Possible Health Risk30
• August 13, 2010 - Merrick Pet Care Recalls Filet Squares & Texas Hold’ems 10oz Bag (Item # 60016 All Lots) Because of Possible Salmonella Health Risk31

What I failed to see reported in any of the articles is a major contributing cause of all of these outbreaks. I suspect that chiefly because of the age of the reporters. Perhaps they don’t know that national outbreaks of this nature are relatively recent in our history—at least as far as the quantity and frequency of them.

Sometimes, there’s an advantage to being older. Along the way to waking up more mornings than many others, is that one gets to accumulate real-life knowledge along the way. Us older fogies have the advantage of learning history from living through it, rather than gaining it from books created by historians or writers who choose what to put in or to leave out. Many of us even used to read two newspapers to get a somewhat balanced view of what was really going on. Not very possible these days unless people get papers from two-newspaper towns, which today are rare, at least for medium-sized cities and smaller.

What I’m referring to is that these kinds of national outbreaks aren’t new. They’re just relatively new to our country—mostly during the past two or three decades. Another nation used to have these kinds of universal outbreaks virtually every year.

I’m referring to the USSR. When I was a kid, Russia was the biggest wheat-grower in the world with millions of acres in production. Yet, every year, without fail, they would turn to the United States to sell them wheat as they’d routinely lose millions and millions of bushels of their primary food crop to “outbreaks” of wheat diseases, and their citizens would have starved in large numbers had not the U.S. come to their aid.

Why?

Simple. Their political system. One of the basic tenets of socialism is the collective. In virtually everything, including agriculture, the individual was sacrificed on the altar of the collective. No small businesses—only one large corporation, called the “government.”

In agriculture, this meant the death of the family farm. The theory was that combining family farms into a single giant farm would lead to more efficiency and therefore, high production.

Unfortunately, like many such “theories” the result was somewhat different. Instead of Russian peasants working their family farms of 20, 30, 80 acres, the fences were torn down and all the acreage came under the control of the collective. Literally, millions of acres.

I’ve never been there, but acquaintances of mine who’ve been to Moscow report that the collective attitude pertains to almost everything they saw. One friend, for instance, says she didn’t see many Motel 6’s or Ramada Inns, at least not the way they appear on our highways and byways. She said they had these huge hotels, with thousands and thousands of rooms. A chicken ranch she visited had more than half a million chickens laying eggs. A pig farm had hundreds of thousands of pigs, and so on. No family farms, no Mom and Pop grocery stories. Humongous supermarkets. (Not much on the shelves, but the shelves were impressive…)

Kind of what’s been happening in the U.S. the past few decades. The death of the family farm.

How does that lead to national outbreaks? Well, one of the results of collectives was that those natural boundaries that the family farm provided, were destroyed. Just as in Communist Russia, national companies took over family farms and combined them into giant combines. Prior to the huge national agricultural companies in the U.S., we had Farmer Jones over here with 180 acres which he sowed in corn and soybeans, and divided into plots of say 20-30 acres, fenced off from other plots. Mr. Jones had a neighbor, Farmer Smith, who decided to grow alfalfa on his 80-acre farm for his Holsteins, and his neighbor, Farmer White, who divided his 280 acres into one 20-acre plot where he grew tomatoes, and larger plots where he grew field corn to feed his 80 pigs and 500 layer chickens for eggs and his 1,000 broiler chickens for meat, and another field of sweet corn for human consumption, next to his neighbor, Farmer Brown, who put most of his acreage into wheat. And so on.

That meant that when a corn plant disease struck, for instance, it only went as far as the fence around that particular field. All around that field were other crops that effectively stopped the spread of the disease. If salmonella struck Farmer White’s layer chickens, it had a natural border where it was stopped and contained. If his pigs got the swine flu or whatever they get, it pretty much was contained to his farm.

Natural borders, which meant diseases were contained to a specific area.

Now, instead of a farmer over here with say 10,000 chickens and the next closest chicken ranch or farm maybe a dozen miles away, you have MegaEggCorp with half a million chickens or even more. A bug hits those and a huge number of birds become infected. No natural boundaries to stop the spread. Instead of a farmer with 60 acres in wheat, now we have huge farms planting thousands and thousands of acres in wheat… surrounded by other mega-farms also planting wheat, so that as far as the eye can see is… wheat. A single plant affected by wheat rot now destroys thousands and thousands of acres.

And that’s what happening in this country now. Accelerated by improved delivery systems that spread an infected product with incredible speed to the entire nation. Today, eggs. Tomorrow, wheat. The day after that…

The more we see the disappearance of the family farm and ranch, the more these outbreaks are bound to occur. Bring back the family farm—get government out of the agriculture business—and they’ll largely disappear. But… that’s too close to common sense to ever happen…

Having lived a life and experienced history up close and personal also leads to different conclusions about life on this planet than say would a 20-year-old dependent mostly on the “media” as it exists these days.

For instance, when I was in college back in the sixties, I had a biology class with a professor who gave his class the following information. He said that the U.S. was nearing the end of a century-long period of extraordinarily good weather. He said the century we were nearing the end of was an anomaly—that such a period of good weather had never occurred historically. He also said, that good weather, along with the improvements in farming and transportation had allowed the U.S. to become the breadbasket of the world. Which, at the time, we were. We were feeding half the world, including Russia with their wheat blight failures each year.

Interesting guy. He told us all this in 1968. (Remember that date.) Further, he said that by most scientists’ estimates, this period of unnaturally good weather would begin to change back to what it had been historically, sometime in the 1990’s. He said at that time, we’d begin to return to more what the weather had been like in this country for centuries before. Weather much like England’s, in which the seasons would begin to lose their distinctness and merge into one another. Winters would be milder and longer and cloudier and we’d lose the extraordinary lengthy growing seasons we had enjoyed for the past seventy years. And, that, he claimed, would lead to world-wide disasters, since the world’s populations had increased significantly during this unprecedented long growing period in the U.S. where we’d been able to feed more people than ever before in history, and when the weather returned to “normal” we were going to be looking at world-wide starvation. The mortality rates which had been drastically decreased due to being able to sustain populations would begin to go back to where they had been before the century of good weather.

He didn’t say a word about “global warming” or any of that. He said we would simply return to “normal” weather—the kind of weather that had been the norm for centuries before the one we were in.

Now, this guy wasn’t any Nobel-prize winning Ivy League professor. He was just an associate professor in a Midwestern state college (Indiana University). The knowledge he passed on to us wasn’t the result of his own original research. It came from common knowledge he’d gleaned from looking at the past weather patterns and being able to read the signs from history and looking at what others in his field had discovered or figured out.

From what I can figure out, what’s happening to our weather is pretty much what this guy pointed out. In 1968. We’re starting to see the kind of weather England has each year. And perhaps beginning to see why England has never been the breadbasket of the world.

When they first started talking about global warming, I thought instantly of this guy from back in the sixties. Most of the things they were predicting were the same things he had… only he didn’t ascribe it to any emissions or pollution or anything like that at all. Just said we were merely going to return to “normal” weather conditions that the earth had been under for centuries.

Now, it seems some scientists and some media have “forgotten” that our weather patterns in the past century were abnormal. Why would they have neglected to mention that? I wonder… Perhaps we should pay attention to the first rule of homicide detectives… i.e., follow the money…

Again, sometimes when one has actually lived through history one may have a different point of view from one who learned their history from a textbook written by folks who just may have an agenda and perhaps don’t want to include all sides of an issue…

Just some food for thought. And, I imagine which will elicit some other opinions. This is just mine. We keep saying, “Whoever ignores history is doomed to repeat it,” but do we really pay attention to that saying or is it just something we say? Maybe another one of those bumper sticker philosophies we like to quote but don’t really pay attention to its meaning?

Blue skies,
Les

7 comments:

Tiffany said...

Those pictures of you are awesome!

I always thought most of the outbreaks were due to some schmo not washing their hands after having a push. Then again, salmonella in eggs isn't uncommon. Just E.coli isn't uncommon. It's when it gets excessive that it starts causing issues.

Tiffany said...

Just /like/ E.coli isn't uncommon, I meant.

sex scenes at starbucks, said...

I agree with you as far as industry and agriculture go. I loathe big business and believe it is socialism under another name. I always have.

I don't know about the weather trends, though I don't like to take anecdotes as evidence. I won't discount it though. But also, I believe in global warming. I've heard too many scientists talk about it. I think oil will become so expensive it'll be obsolete, hopefully before we do too much more damage. Not sure how I feel about that...

Les Edgerton said...

Hey Tiffany--salmonella is fairly common. The point I was making is that diseases of every stripe--from fairly benign to deadly serious--are much more likely to spread nation-wide now with the disappearance of the family farm which abolishes those natural borders where diseases that struck crops and livestock used to be halted at are gone now, with the advent of those huge company "farms."

Betsy, I totally agree with you. My late father always taught me not to ever accept labels and terms but to always look for the true meanings and definitions. Much of "corporate America" is socialism under another name. I just hate it when capitalism is lumped with corporations--small business is what built this country and will save it financially. Multinational conglomerates are pretty much the same as the USSR's national combines and operate pretty much the same way, imo. There are some differences, of course. But, when people say "business" and are throwing every type of business into the mix, they fail to realize there's a huge difference between small, entrepreneurships and a G.M. And, there's a big difference between a nationalized G.M. and say Ford Motor Company, even. Those who accept government handouts must be prepared to accept government controls as well... Maybe why all the new cars we see nowadays look like they were made in the Ukraine... Give me the sixties when cars had style and pizazz and imagination...

Got a feeling this is all going to stir up a hornet's nest. Not sure if I'm ready for that...

J. Nelson Leith said...

I tell you what, I am glad to see more people starting to realize that there's really no difference -- economically or politically -- between a class of elite planners calling themselves communists and a class of elite planners calling themselves capitalists. Same problems, different packaging.

Les Edgerton said...

J. Nelson. EXACTLY.

I thank my father for drilling it into me to never blindly accept labels, but look at the makeup of the institution. That old, "if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, quacks like a duck..." it's probably a duck... even if someone is calling it a camel...

Les Edgerton said...

J. Nelson. EXACTLY.

I thank my father for drilling it into me to never blindly accept labels, but look at the makeup of the institution. That old, "if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, quacks like a duck..." it's probably a duck... even if someone is calling it a camel...