We can’t kill all the birds. That’s my usual response when talking about the practicality of on-farm food safety systems for fresh produce. Yes, birds are salmonella and campylobacter factories. But, as a farmer, you do what you can to reduce risk.
It now appears that the 18 people in Alaska sick with campylobacter got it from eating raw peas from a farm, where apparently sandhill cranes were crapping all over the peas.
The Anchorage Daily News says that Joe McLaughlin, state epidemiologist with the state health department, said Thursday afternoon the likely culprits in spreading the illness in Mat-Su are sandhill cranes.
Apparently the migratory birds love the peas in Mat-Valley Peas’ fields. And what geese can do to a sidewalk, cranes do to a field.
"The farmer thinks that’s the likely scenario," McLaughlin said. "He has another field with cattle nearby, but it’s highly plausible that the cranes’ poop is the cause."
Duane Clark, who markets the peas for longtime grower John Hett, said, "They don’t have proof we’re the ones, and we don’t have proof we’re not."
"I’ve been farming for over 30 years," Hett said, "and never had a problem."
Shayne Herr, Hett’s son-in-law and manager of the farm, said, "If DEC’s concerned, we’re concerned." He said his family eats raw peas all the time, "and we never get diarrhea. We wash them and we’re fine. If we don’t like them, we don’t sell them."
It’s a new marketing slogan: our food is fine cause we don’t get diahhrea.