Can Wildlife Really be Blamed when U.S. is Using Contaminated Water to Irrigate our Fields?

by Jim Bynum, Vice President of Help for Sewage Victims

Wild Boar ... Mean isn't he?
Creative Commons License photo credit: Subharnab

California is an unlucky state when it comes to the bio-engineered E. coli 0157:H7. As an example 1) the first recorded human case of E. coli 0157:H7 in 1975 was a Oakland Naval Officer; 2) the first corporation connected to E. coli 0157:H7 contaminated hamburger meat in 1982 was founded in California; and 3)   the first case of E. coli 0157:H7 in wild boars was associated with a contaminated spinach outbreak in 2006 irrigated with recycled sewage water known to contain bacteria. In the interim, between the hamburger meat from cattle outbreak and the alleged wild boar contamination of spinach, there were upward of 20 outbreaks of E. coli O157:H7 in fresh spinach or lettuce.

Recycled Sewage Water and Foodborne Illness Outbreaks are Linked

The increased outbreaks were not a response to people eating more leafy vegetables. Between 1986-1995, U.S. leafy green consumption increased 17.2% compared to an increased of 59.6% in foodborne outbreaks. The wide gap continued in the 1996-2005 period where leafy green consumption increased only 9.0% and outbreaks increased by 38.6%. This corresponds to the increase in the  use of recycled sewage water. In 1977  California had 194 operational sewage reuse projects, with another 34 in the planing and construction stage. The Salinas Valley sewage reuse project was completed in 1989.

During the wild boar spinach episode of 2006, there were 205 laboratory confirmed cases of infection with E. coli O157:H7 connected to packaged fresh spinach from Dole. Of those confirmed infections, 103 individuals were hospitalized, while three died from the infection. According to CDC documents, the majority  of victims (82%) were women and young children under 5 years old.

Bad Actors Blamed Boars

The investigation of this incident revealed more about the actors than how the spinach was contaminated. While there was some concern about the contaminated recycled sewage water used to irrigate the 12,000 acre Salinas Valley where the spinach was grown, the focus was on animals and wildlife habitat. The recommendation was to get rid of the wildlife and its habitat. To reassure the public and food processors that recycled sewage couldn’t possibly have caused the contamination, a study was performed using genetically engineered laboratory strains of non-pathogenic E. coli 0157 which only survived for less than 30 days in the soil and did not infect the spinach. That finding is in sharp contrast with USDA’s position that E. coli O157:H7 will survive in soil for 154 to 217 days and can be detected on lettuce and parsley for up to 77 and 177 days respectively.

The difference can be attributed to the motive and qualifications of the entities involved.  In the first instance, E.coli 0157:H7 must be handled by qualified personnel under biohazard level 2 safety standards. When the Central American shigella toxin gene was removed from E. coli 0157:H7 it became a weakened strain of E. coli. That strain was used because there is a 76 million dollar investment to protect in the recycled sewage water irrigation system and over 100 million dollar lost of product as well as the legal costs involved with the victims. In the second instance, the push is on for government regulation of all farms. Rather than admit a mistake was made by funding projects such as this irrigation system, where bacteria were known to regrow in chlorinated disinfectant, the government would rather make victims of the farmers and run them out of business.

E. coli 0157:H7 Causes Sickness, Adding Antibiotics Causes Death

History shows us that E. coli 0157:H7 is a mutant containing a toxin gene from a 12 year pandemic outbreak of Central American shigella starting in 1968 that killed over 12,500 people the first year, in Guatemala alone. Out of 60,000 clinical isolate strains of E. coli, it would appear that E. coli 0157:H7 is the only one in which the gene to ferment lactose has been removed to make it invisible during a standard E. coli test. It is also unusual in that it is not only antibiotic resistant, it becomes more deadly in the presence of antibiotics.

The new mutant strain of bacteria was first documented in a naval officer in Oakland, California in 1975. Seven years later it made the jump to cattle (1982), where it showed up in McDonald’s hamburgers in Oregon and Michigan. Next it showed up in wild boars for the first time in 2006, near a field irrigated with recycled sewage water known to, and allowed to, contain some levels of bacteria by state law.

How can we blame this little guy?

How can we blame this little guy?

It does not matter where the Naval Biosciences Laboratory at Oakland was involved in the controversy over recombinant DNA used to create E. coli 0157:H7  during the development of the 1974 patent application process to create bacteria which could not exist in nature, or the mutation happened in the gut of the naval officer, or the transformation happened in the sewage treatment plant where bacteria and viruses continually swap genetic material. The fact is that bacteria and virus contaminated recycled sewage in the form of water and sludge are spread on our food crops and other land where all animals, including humans are infected.  Bacteria have been documented to survive in soil for over 1 year and on plants for up to 6 months.

Waste Industry Experts are Wrong Guys to Protect Food Supply

There are over 200 known diseases that may be in recycled sewage which can be transmitted through food and water. The diseases are caused by the known pollutants in recycled sewage: viruses, bacteria, parasites, toxins, metals, and prions. Yet, we place our health in the hands of the waste industry, engineers, as well as plant and soil experts who are not qualified to handle biological pollutants such as E. coli 0157:H7 or judge the danger to our food and water. Their job, and they are paid well,  is to help recycled sewage under the EPA, FDA and USDA national policy.

If we can not get Congress to listen to experts qualified to test for and handle the known disease causing pollutants in recycled sewage, you may be the next step up from that wild boar.

Jim Bynum is the Vice President of Help for Sewage Victims, a retired safety consultant, hazardous material transportation trainer, and farmer. Sludge runoff from the Kansas City, MO sewage disposal site contaminated his fields. High levels of salmonella and ecoli 0157:H7  forced him to stop farming. He now works tirelessly doing research to inform food policy in the United States, to protect other farmers and the consumers that depend on them for sustenance.

What Can You Do?

Here is the link to Jim’s latest research on this issue:

A petition to stop this madness can be found at.

Call your Senator and tell them to “Vote NO” on S510, the Senate version of the food safety bill.

Let your elected officials know that you do not want wildlife and their habitat destroyed in the name of food safety!

Become a fan of Stop! HR2749 and S510 “Food Safety” Bills in Facebook.

This post is part of the Food Roots blog carnival on Nourishing Days blog.

This post is part of the Fight Back Fridays’ blog carnival, explore more ways to get involved in the food revolution here.

Wild boar picture: Creative Commons License photo credit: brian.gratwicke