MANSFIELD: Putting Lives at Risk

According to news sources, “An outbreak of E. coli made 17 people ill and killed one person across the United States between November 15 and December 8, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Though the source of infection is still unknown, the CDC is investigating leafy greens and romaine lettuce.”

The above statement is obfuscation at best, and a downright lie at worse, and here’s why: The CDC knows the source of the infection, but powerful and greedy farm lobbying groups obviously have the government boxed in on this issue.

The report continues, “Five people have been hospitalized, according to Ian Williams, chief of the CDC’s Outbreak Response and Prevention Branch. Two of the hospitalized patients developed hemolytic uremic syndrome, a type of kidney failure. The 17 cases occurred in California (3), Connecticut (2), Illinois (1), Indiana (1), Michigan (1), Nebraska (1), New Hampshire (2), New York (1), Ohio (1), Pennsylvania (1), Virginia (1), Vermont (1) and Washington (1).”

Which means you and your family were — and perhaps still are — at risk, all because growers refuse to treat farm workers with dignity. Read on.

“The strain of bacteria has been identified as shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli O157:H7, which can cause stomach cramps, diarrhea and vomiting. Infections with E. coli O157 can be life-threatening, especially for the elderly, the very young and immune-compromised people, such as cancer patients.”

Food scientists know that E. coli are a diverse family of bacteria that can be found in the environment, in foods and in the intestines of people and animals, and that most strains are harmless. But they also know what causes these occasional deadly outbreaks — E. coli from the intestines of humans.

The outbreaks occur after farm workers defecate in the fields as they are working. The nearest toilet might be a mile or more away, so they simply shit in the field rather than lose money by taking a half-hour off to make the long trek to a toilet.

Farmers know this is an issue, and those with a sense of conscience bear the small cost of having a portable toilet pulled around the fields on a tractor. This effectively solves the problem, and the CDC knows it.

But some growers are so brutal on their workers they feel as though any concession made — even in the name of public safety — is one too many. So, why doesn’t the government mandate that portable toilet facilities be made available for farm workers? Go back and read the end of the second paragraph for your answer.

As a cautionary note, washing off your romaine lettuce is not a solution as the bacteria is actually inside the leaves, not on them. Of course this is an obscure non-issue …that is until you or a family member gets sick, or dies.

From CoolCleveland correspondent Mansfield B. Frazier Frazier’s From Behind The Wall: Commentary on Crime, Punishment, Race and the Underclass by a Prison Inmate is available in hardback. Snag your copy and have it signed by the author at

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