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Swine Flu


DonRocks
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Will the growing alarm about global spread of swine flu have an effect on the way you shop for groceries?

What you buy?

How and what you'll eat?

I am thinking, for example, about the differences between the ways Italians and U.S. shoppers buy produce in supermarkets.

While living in Florence, I had to put on these little plastic gloves in the produce department before handling fruit or vegetables. Put what I wanted in bags, weighed and priced each item, and nobody else touched my purchases, theoretically, between the time they were put on display and the time I took them out of the bag at home.

In the U.S., we're used to sampling food at stores and at markets. We select our own heirloom tomatoes under tents instead of letting the farmer make the choice for us. Who knows how many hands touch stuff we plan only to rinse before biting, slicing or blending it, raw, into a smoothie?

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Here's how swine flu will affect my purchasing: NOT AT ALL!

Here's how swine flu will affect ANYTHING I DO: not at all.

152 deaths in 15 days from swine flu.

Compared to 2,280,000... that's 2.28 MILLION... deaths in the same time period from all other causes.

You are far more likely to die FROM EVERYTHING ELSE than from swine flu.

Here's how to make grocery shopping safer: MOVE CLOSER TO THE GROCERY STORE SO YOU DON'T HAVE TO DRIVE! In those fifteen days, almost 52,000 people have died in automobile accidents.

THAT'S what you should be afraid of.

I dread the day when we all live fifty miles from each other in plastic bubbles, and our houses hover fifty feet above the ground because god forbid we should touch the dirt.

This diatribe brought to you by all the merlot I just drank! Merlot: Provoking outrage since 100 AD (when, for instance, no one cared much about dirt or germs and yet, here we are, still a species!).

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Swine Flu is NOT a food safety issue.

How exactly do you know this with such certainty? For a lengthier discussion, click.

An excerpt:

"[Dr. Mike Hansen, a Senior Staff Scientist with Consumers Union] weighs in: 'If 60% of the population of a town near a huge swine facility [in Mexico] got sick with this flu and those are among the first cases seen (e.g. close to ground zero), then that really does point a strong finger that something in that area could be the problem. At the very least, there should be a very specific investigation of the Smithfield facility that involves significant testing of those pigs for swine flu.'''

I'm not an epidemiologist, nor an expert on food production, but it strikes me as completely premature to dismiss this wholesale as "NOT a food safety issue." Isn't it possible that swine flu is a result of practices at that facility in Mexico that are not unique to that facility in Mexico? Wouldn't that make this, in fact, a food safety issue that should be of concern?

Dan is absolutely right that there other things that should concern us more than swine flu. That doesn't mean that we shouldn't take *reasonable* steps to mitigate the risk, especially if the next epidemic could be worse.

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I'm a bit disGRUNTled (snort, snort) to find the initial post of the thread I started buried under a couple of jokes since I really wanted to gauge whether people were concerned about reports that the disease is now transmitted by human to human contact.

To wit*, are they worried that it will be passed on via things people touch: escalator rails, door knobs, toilet seats, money, sugar cookies in bins at Harris Teeter, cheese cubes at Whole Foods or slices of apple down at the market where everyone is grabbing for anything a chef prepares during a cooking demonstration?

I wasn't implying we had to worry about pork chops or bacon, though I do find it interesting that focus is shifting towards the meat industry.

One of the reasons I asked is because different states have different regulations about the ways samples of food must prepared and offered to the general public.

*Not to be confused w puns though word play qualifies :rolleyes:

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I'm a bit disGRUNTled (snort, snort) to find the initial post of the thread I started buried under a couple of jokes since I really wanted to gauge whether people were concerned about reports that the disease is now transmitted by human to human contact.

To wit*, are they worried that it will be passed on via things people touch: escalator rails, door knobs, toilet seats, money, sugar cookies in bins at Harris Teeter, cheese cubes at Whole Foods or slices of apple down at the market where everyone is grabbing for anything a chef prepares during a cooking demonstration?

I wasn't implying we had to worry about pork chops or bacon, though I do find it interesting that focus is shifting towards the meat industry.

One of the reasons I asked is because different states have different regulations about the ways samples of food must prepared and offered to the general public.

*Not to be confused w puns though word play qualifies :rolleyes:

H1N1 is not going to be a food issue in the way that the whole ecoli/spinach issue was. However, if someone has contracted h1n1 and handles your food, you could contract it. Likewise, if YOU come into contact with h1n1 and touch your face, or your food, you could contract it.

WASH YOUR HANDS!! WASH YOUR HANDS!! WASH YOUR HANDS!!

(I've been in this groove for decades, being in healthcare and touching folks for many years)

ps...last year, I sampled nasturtiums at a farmers market and within 48 hours, had a severe upper respiratory infection which led to a touch of pneumonia. NOT to say that I'm absolutely certain that I contracted the bacteria there, but it was on the top of my list. I am a bit weary now, but try not to be paranoid and not enjoy myself, and free samples!

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How exactly do you know this with such certainty? For a lengthier discussion, click.

An excerpt:

"[Dr. Mike Hansen, a Senior Staff Scientist with Consumers Union] weighs in: 'If 60% of the population of a town near a huge swine facility [in Mexico] got sick with this flu and those are among the first cases seen (e.g. close to ground zero), then that really does point a strong finger that something in that area could be the problem. At the very least, there should be a very specific investigation of the Smithfield facility that involves significant testing of those pigs for swine flu.'''

I'm not an epidemiologist, nor an expert on food production, but it strikes me as completely premature to dismiss this wholesale as "NOT a food safety issue." Isn't it possible that swine flu is a result of practices at that facility in Mexico that are not unique to that facility in Mexico? Wouldn't that make this, in fact, a food safety issue that should be of concern?

Food safety implies that we should be concerned by eating, purchasing, or handling the food. Unless your local megamart has a pig pen in the meat aisle, I don't see how the mere fact that an animal we happen to eat transmits the disease makes this a food safety issue since it's not transmitted in the meat itself. This is not mad cow disease.

Check out THIS little bit of abject horror: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090429/ap_on_...egypt_swine_flu. So we should destroy all automobile factories because they cause auto accidents? Should we kill anyone who eats saturated fat for fear they might give us a heart attack? Maybe we should nuke the tobacco fields since respiratory illness and cancer are such prolific killers.

I have issues.

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I wrote:

"Dan is absolutely right that there other things that should concern us more than swine flu. That doesn't mean that we shouldn't take *reasonable* steps to mitigate the risk, especially if the next epidemic could be worse."

To which, you write:

Check out THIS little bit of abject horror: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090429/ap_on_...egypt_swine_flu. So we should destroy all automobile factories because they cause auto accidents? Should we kill anyone who eats saturated fat for fear they might give us a heart attack? Maybe we should nuke the tobacco fields since respiratory illness and cancer are such prolific killers.

I have issues.

There is nothing "reasonable" about the Egyptian reaction or any of your hyperbolic follow-on questions. Yes, you do have issues, and if you recognize them, why inflict them on those of us trying to to have a reasonably serious discussion about all of this?

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I'm a bit disGRUNTled (snort, snort) to find the initial post of the thread I started buried under a couple of jokes since I really wanted to gauge whether people were concerned about reports that the disease is now transmitted by human to human contact.

To wit*, are they worried that it will be passed on via things people touch: escalator rails, door knobs, toilet seats, money, sugar cookies in bins at Harris Teeter, cheese cubes at Whole Foods or slices of apple down at the market where everyone is grabbing for anything a chef prepares during a cooking demonstration?

I wasn't implying we had to worry about pork chops or bacon, though I do find it interesting that focus is shifting towards the meat industry.

One of the reasons I asked is because different states have different regulations about the ways samples of food must prepared and offered to the general public.

*Not to be confused w puns though word play qualifies <_<

People seem to be having difficulty distinguishing possible origins of this strain at a factory hog farm in Mexico (or from whatever pig population it originated) from food all the way at the end of the production chain that could have come from anywhere and has been cooked. It's people living in close proximity to the infected live animals who are at risk of contracting it from the animals. I suspect, especially online, that there are people who enjoy spreading fear-rumors they know are false, which just complicates everything. It's absolutely true that the biggest food risk is from things like sharing utensils or touching raw produce an infected person has recently touched or sneezed on.

It's a hard balance between being cautious and alert to changing developments and being paranoid. An acquaintance of mine in the Hill Country in Texas reported today that he went to drive his daughters to school, and the gates were locked, with a sign saying the school was closed until May 11th. He had no idea the school was closing, though one other school in the district had recently been shut down and schools 20 miles away (closer to the outbreak) had been closed. Where are the kids who aren't in school going? To day care, where they're with a bunch of other kids, just like they'd be in school? Difficult situation all around, trying to figure out what to do.

I don't really have an answer. I've had terrible allergies all month. People are going to think I'm out contaminating things when they see me :rolleyes:.

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I agree with definitely agree with monavano on washing hands. But I am cautious about food samples to begin with, going back to Anna Blume's point. Ever since I contracted a nasty bacterial infection from using the same bubble-blowing wand that a child with an asymptomatic cold had, I've also been cautious about wiping stuff down.

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People seem to be having difficulty distinguishing possible origins of this strain at a factory hog farm in Mexico (or from whatever pig population it originated) from food all the way at the end of the production chain that could have come from anywhere and has been cooked. It's people living in close proximity to the infected live animals who are at risk of contracting it from the animals. I suspect, especially online, that there are people who enjoy spreading fear-rumors they know are false, which just complicates everything. It's absolutely true that the biggest food risk is from things like sharing utensils or touching raw produce an infected person has recently touched or sneezed on.

I think plenty of people are making this distinction and are not simply fear mongering, but this outbreak *potentially* raises larger issues about food production methods. There are different kinds of food safety issues--there's risk in the food we eat and there's risk in the way that we produce food. That is a critical distinction to make, but aren't both important?

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I think plenty of people are making this distinction and are not simply fear mongering, but this outbreak *potentially* raises larger issues about food production methods. There are different kinds of food safety issues--there's risk in the food we eat and there's risk in the way that we produce food. That is a critical distinction to make, but aren't both important?
Yes, both are important, but there seems to be difficulty for some in grasping more than one issue at a time. The Rolling Stone expose last (?) year certainly brought to the forefront issues about factory farming of hogs. Plenty of people have dealt with these issues, but bringing them up now in a context that is not 140-character communicable seems to be adding to confusion about what is going on. It's like the e coli problem with spinach a while back. Pollan had certainly talked about problems with organic industrial farming, but when it was an immediately relevant issue, people were too concerned about what they were eating to pay much attention to the underlying issues that caused the problem. It's difficult to catch the attention of people with a short attention span for very long.
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The problem is that factory made foods are starting to kill us in larger and larger numbers. Large scale animal feeding systems are letting lose various kinds of bacteria (antibiotic resistant and not), the runoff is causing the rise of rare conditions like pfisteria (I probably butchered the spelling of that one). Factory rised foods lead to factory means of production and items like partially hydrogenated corkn oil, HFCS and other things that are setting off a flood of disease like our current diabetes epidemic. There is very suggestive evidence emerging that factory feed lot raised beef is more dangerous to your health than low intensity farmed beef. etc etc.

Yet there are folk who still say that they prefer the safety of big ag. Yeah, sure! The numbers should scare the shit out of us into doing something to restore a non factory approach. The miracle of modern agriculture is cheap food that kills.

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ps...last year, I sampled nasturtiums at a farmers market and within 48 hours, had a severe upper respiratory infection which led to a touch of pneumonia. NOT to say that I'm absolutely certain that I contracted the bacteria there, but it was on the top of my list. I am a bit weary now, but try not to be paranoid and not enjoy myself, and free samples!

I agree that we are not at risk of contracting flu from the food itself, but rather from those who've touched it prior to our consuming it. I'm convinced that the bad case of flu that I had last year was a direct result of my then newly-acquired habit of sampling the free food at my local Whole Foods -- you know, the cheese cubes and dips, where people have to shove their hands into the plexiglas globe and it's nearly impossible not to brush your hand against the food, especially for all the little kids who cluster at these things. I hadn't had the flu in at least 15 years prior to that. I avoided all free samples this winter and remained healthy. Though it pains me to do so, in the current situation, I think I'm going to continue that practice.

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