Friday, 3 June 2011

Don't boil the lettuce, wear gloves

If this new strain of E Coli escapes into pandemic proportions then the users of London's buses and tubes will be amongst the first affected. E Coli is transmitted in exactly the same way as the Winter Vomiting Bug - in minute particles of human faeces left on poles, doors and grab-rails by people who don't wash their hands properly after using the lavatory. And London's full of 'em. Even if the source of the bug on salad crops is identified and contained, those already infected will be transmitters unless they too are isolated. 


And paradoxically, this is a good opportunity for British farmers and growers to sell to the public directly rather than through the big supermarkets - the Tesco salads counter will be shunned for the next week or so as fear of Mediterranean muck takes hold. Torrential downpours recently in Extremadura have no doubt contaminated stored water with human sewage and animal manure, which has then been carelessly used to wash or water the salad crops, whilst in the South of France a record drought  has seen draconian restrictions on water use. 


So the answer seems to be don't boil the lettuce as long as it's British, but do wear gloves on the bus. 

14 comments:

right_writes said...

Or take the advice of this Chinese doctor...

Q: Should I cut down on meat and eat more fruits and vegetables?

A: You must grasp logistical efficiency. What does cow eat? Hay and corn. And what are these? Vegetables. So steak is nothing more than efficient mechanism of delivering vegetables to your system. Need grain? Eat chicken. Beef also good source of field grass (green leafy vegetable). And pork chop can give you 100% of recommended daily allowance of vegetable product.

That is...

Until the next scare (like bird flu) hits, and we all revert to eating something else...

So, the French are being "globally warmed"... Or is this just weather?

Richard said...

One of the interesting things about E.coli is its fragility in the environment, so much so that in water sampling one uses its presence as a marker of recent faecal contamination. Thus, in normal circumstances, one can expect the organism to die off pretty rapidly.

The process is even more rapid on human skin. As one might expect, nature has devised the near-perfect bateria barrier, to keep us all alive. Thus, human skin is a pretty amazing anti-bacterial system, and creates a hostile environment for enteric bacteria such as E.coli. Die-off is rapid and generally complete.

On the other hand, glove surfaces are inert, allowing survival of bacteria which might not survive on normal skin, so much so that one can often get a higher count from gloved hands than from the "naked" example.

This is an issue over which I despair. Intuitively, gloves might seem better. In practice, they increase the chance of contamination survival and spread.

Raedwald said...

Richard -though the skin is an excellent barrier, touching a contaminated finger to lips or eyes affords no such protection (eyes for viruses rather than bacteria, obv) so if you're a smoker, for example, there's a high chance that bare hands will transmit from the contaminated surface to the mucus membrane. Thus gloves, removed when smoking a ciggie, is a far safer option.

And whilst some glove surfaces are inert, that of my leather gloves is not. The antibacterial action of tannins in cured leather is well documented, and probably offers faster die-off than bare skin.

A useful debate, but one with more than one right answer I think.

Barnacle Bill said...

So the advice is -
Avoid London and any salad counters.
Eat more well cooked meat.
Bin the gloves.

It's a Yorkshire fry up for me this morning then!

Anonymous said...

Deja vu? Haven't we been here before with Spaniards irrigating their crops with sewage. Wasn't that a few years back? Clearly we don't learn and/or don't punish the miscreants enough. And as for London (crikey, I'm there on Monday) its full of all those people that don't even use toilet paper. Eating hand / dung hand. Bleargh!

Coney Island

Blue Eyes said...

Watching the news last night I was struck by the thought that this happens so rarely that a few people dying of food poisoning is an international scandal. Generally, we have extraordinarily good public health - so much so that, even though there are lots of dirty bastards who don't was their hand, for many of us a slightly dodgy gut is reasonably unusual.

I have also been watching Dan Snow's dirty cities mini-series and it was not so very long ago that every realm of our lives was dirty and disgusting.

Amazing.

hatfield girl said...

Glove-wearing is a class thing. there's quite a lot of aggression just under the surface to gloves. Not the ugly, lumpy, keeping your hands warm in the cold sort but the well-fitting, beautifully seamed, smooth as silk sort in pretty colours.

Everyone enjoys choosing and wearing shoes but wear lovely gloves and the glowering starts. Which is quite a recent phenomenon for you have only to look at paintings and photographs to see that people took just as much fun out of gloves as they did out of shoes until quite recently.But where would you even find a choice in London now? Fenwicks perhaps? Outside of London, no idea.

Grey, or flesh-cloloured, are always good for summer; short to the wrist, split so that they can be turned down. Always lined in silk or they will lose their shape and some will transfer dye to the hands. All gloves should be close-fitting and, as like your feet hands will be of different sizes, get the assistant to help you try them carefully, and listen to their advice.

This summer gloves are quite sporty with little velcro fasteners on the back of the wrist and have flat seams; they are in toffee and buttery colours, and some have the very tips of the fingers removed so that pretty nails can be shown.

Single acts of tyranny said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Single acts of tyranny said...

Maybe it's my ongoing schadenfreude but following the way the Europeans treated perfectly safe UK beef, shouldn't we now be issuing safety warnings over any and all foreign vegetables?

Maybe Eugène Sue had it right.

CiaranG said...

The best answer seems to be to avoid buses and/or London. Luckily I'm already doing both.

James Higham said...

What about cabbage? No one's mentioned cabbage.

FrankC said...

Boikl cabbage for long enough and it's perfectly safe. Inedible, but safe.

Anonymous said...

Migrant workers with 3rd world toilet habits shitting in the fields that they pick crops in ? Time is money and its a long walk to the portaloo. One possible vector ?

Richard said...

R

Were you planning on smoking in a bus or tube? That could be an interesting experiment.