This article is from the archive of The New York Sun before the launch of its new website in 2022. The Sun has neither altered nor updated such articles but will seek to correct any errors, mis-categorizations or other problems introduced during transfer.
This just in from the federal Food and Drug Administration — and, as Dave Barry would say, we’re not making this up: “FDA advises consumers to not eat fresh spinach or fresh spinach-containing products until further notice.” That’s right, spinach — that health food endorsed by everyone from your mother to Popeye the Sailor Man — is now a health threat. Why, next thing you know, tobacco will turn out to be good for you.
Spinach features prominently in “The Miracle Foods Cookbook: Easy, Low-Cost Recipes and Menus That Help You Lose Weight, Fight Disease, and Slow the Aging Process.” The American Cancer Society Web site features a recipe for Saint Anthony Hotel’s Famous Spinach Pudding. Of the American Heart Association’s Web site’s “Top Ten Food Tips,” three of them identify spinach by name and advise consumers to eat it.
Yet suddenly, according to the FDA, spinach — or, more precisely, the E. Coli bacteria that it carries — causes diarrhea that can lead to Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome, “serious kidney damage and even death.” The FDA says it hasn’t yet determined whether the problem is confined to organic spinach, but the spinach producer that has recalled much of its product has several organic brands.
It wouldn’t surprise us one bit were it to turn out that the E. Coli bacteria came from manure that is being used instead of chemical fertilizer. In an effort to avoid the imagined health threats of chemical fertilizer, farmers and consumers are using bacteria-laden manure. In an effort to avoid the imagined health threats of radiation, the organic spinach isn’t irradiated to kill the harmful bacteria, either.
So now hundreds of Americans are suffering, millions of dollars worth of spinach is being thrown away, and at least one person is reported to have died. The spinach scare comes the weekend that the World Health Organization recommended the use of DDT to fight malaria in Africa. In the 24 years since the chemical pesticide was banned in America because of health concerns, millions of African children have died of malaria.
The harm from organic spinach will likely be on a much smaller scale, but the principles may well be the same. Chemicals, radiation, and technology aren’t always bad, but can actually lead to better health. What’s “natural” — whether they are malarial mosquitoes or bacteria-laden manure — isn’t always best for your health. And the politically correct public health bureaucrats are usually a good decade or two behind the times.