Patrick Tregenza, USDA
As if plump ripe tomatoes and fresh raspberries picked yesterday weren't already enough reason to shop at your local farmer's market, researchers at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have provided yet another justification for getting intimate with the origins of your produce.
Health Day News reports CDC scientists have presented study findings at the International Conference on Emerging Infectious Diseases, in Atlanta, indicating that food-borne illnesses associated with leafy greens are gaining ground in this country. (Read the article here.) What's more, our increasing consumption of greens like lettuce, spinach, and radicchio—a nine percent rise over the last decade—isn't enough to explain a 39 percent escalation in illnesses.
The researchers said food preparation is often to blame for localized disease eruptions, but widespread outbreaks, like the high-profile spinach and lettuce-related E. coli illnesses in 2006, often reveal that contamination happened on the farm or in the processing plant.
"Contamination can occur anywhere along the chain from the farm to the table," said CDC researcher Michael Lynch. "Efforts by local, state and federal agencies to control leafy green outbreaks should span from the point of harvest to the point of preparation."
The researchers did not say whether large-scale industrial farms were more likely to be at the root of an outbreak than small farms.
But this might be one more reason to buy produce from someone you trust. (If you get sick, at least you will know who to blame.) Supporting local farmers has other benefits, too. It helps preserve green space in your region, puts money back in the local economy, and protects a food source that doesn't have to be shipped far distances. And who wouldn't want to munch on that? To find a farmers' market near you, visit Local Harvest.