Because food recalls so often affect meat, eggs and other animal products, it’s easy to forget that vegans aren’t exempt from the possibility of food-borne illness. What’s a vegan to do when the recalls start hitting veggies?
It’s happened in the past, most recently with bagged spinach. Tomatoes at Taco Bell were suspected of causing illness in the not-so-distant past. Despite being associated with undercooked meat, salmonella clearly can attack our vegetables, as well. But how?
If soil becomes infected with salmonella from a source such as tainted water, some strains can infect plants and multiply inside their cells. Salmonella can also be transmitted to a vegetable’s surface by cross-contamination with raw or undercooked meats, or simply by someone who doesn’t wash their hands before preparing food. Any improperly-cleaned preparation surface that has come into contact with raw meat can also spread the bacteria.
The bottom line here is that salmonella spreads when people aren’t careful about cleanliness in regards to food. The current conditions of factory farms don’t help in regards to meat-borne salmonella, which in turn increases the risk of potential infection in veggies when food preparation is sloppy. I’m not saying that the meat industry causes all salmonella outbreaks, but it certainly is part of the problem.
So even if you don’t have to worry about your own vegan kitchen, it’s best to be discerning when shopping or eating out. If you’re at a restaurant that prepares meat, don’t hesitate to ask about the cleaning procedures used in the kitchen. Make sure to wash fruits and vegetables thoroughly when preparing them yourself. And vegan or not, it never hurts to keep your hands clean!