- There are probably far more health hazards lurking on your kitchen counter than there are in your garden, and:
- That’s not to say that gardeners shouldn’t take some common-sense precautions, E. coli scare or no.
I think we gardeners do get too lax about our yummy organic ingredients. I know better than to slip into the "if it’s organic, it’s safe" mindset, but consider these points, all of which are covered in more detail in the story:
- There are lots of different strains of E. coli. This latest outbreak was caused by a particularly deadly strain that is common on feedlots. (but is not necessarily more common in cornfed vs. grassfed beef, as some have said–the research is inconclusive on this point.)
- E. coli can be carried by any ruminant, so that includes cows, goats, sheep, and even deer that may wander through your property.
- It’s virtually impossible for a homemade manure pile to get hot enough to kill all harmful bacteria
- Bagged manures, organic fertilizers, and the like are subject to a patchwork of state regulations. Although heat sterilization is common, there is no single point of Federal oversight for the production of manure, bone meal, blood meal, and other animal products you might use in your garden.
What does this mean to you? Gloves. Maybe a dustmask when you’re digging in bone meal. Washing your hands. Fencing out deer. And so on. Pretty basic stuff, really.
UPDATE: Sorry, I hit "publish" before I included these resources: a handy guide from Colorado State University on home composting of manure, and a guide to preventing E. coli in the garden and the kitchen.
Has the latest E. coli outbreak changed any of your gardening practices?