How Global Warming Could Make Food Less Safe To Eat – Mashed
Scientists say global warming could make leafy greens even riskier. The lettuce in the 2018 case, was contaminated by water from an irrigation canal that ran next to a cattle feedlot (via Eater). That canal appeared to be the link between cow poop on the feedlot and lettuce in nearby fields. This particular crop may have been especially susceptible to E. coli contamination because the leaves had been damaged by a February freeze — something they don’t normally see in the lettuce-growing parts of Arizona.
A climate that brings both more frequent droughts and more heavy rains can also increase the risk of E. coli contamination in leafy greens. During an extended dry period, fecal matter will pile up on farm fields until the next heavy rain washes it all into nearby ditches or irrigation canals. Jay Graham, an environmental health sciences professor at Cal Berkeley, told Eater that he predicts the weather patterns emerging through climate change will make foodborne illnesses even more common, especially in countries outside the U.S. that are only now ramping up agriculture to an industrial scale — sometimes without strict safety regulations, like those in effect in the U.S.
Consumers can take steps to avoid food poisoning. The CDC recommends washing your hands thoroughly, then rubbing the leaves with your hands under running water to wash the lettuce. Packaged greens labeled “ready to eat” or “no washing necessary” should be fine.