The current scare on vegetables is hugely overblown. And that's from a microbiologist who started poking around with bacteria in 1978, has a PhD specifically in gut microbiology and is still playing with those bacteria, and now with some real botty-exploders too.
The Daily Terror has wheeled out the Government's favourite fear-monger, Saucy HP himself, to demand that all German produce is removed from supermarket shelves. I don't know how this guy keeps popping up. Local legend is that he is stored in formalin between scares.
They have a map showing the spread of the infection. Except it shows no such thing. As far as I can tell, everyone who caught this infection caught it in Germany. There has, as yet, been no transmission between individuals outside Germany and no sign of anyone catching anything from any German exported produce.
Of course, given the crap state of our hospitals where easily-controlled infections do the rounds faster than a consultant with an imminent tee-off appointment, that's just a matter of time. For now, there is no danger involved in eating salads outside specific parts of Germany. For cooked veg, there is no danger at all, anywhere.
If you want your lettuce checked for E. coli, there are food testing labs all over the place who would be glad of the business. The test would take 24 hours, it's simple and cheap. I would charge £10 a test and I don't have the turnover of the big labs. There is no need to find out which E. coli variant is present because fruit and veg shouldn't have any E. coli of any kind at all. If it does, there's shit on it and you don't want to eat it anyway. This bacterium isn't found anywhere else, its presence indicates faecal contamination.
Russia has banned all EU vegetable imports even though the problem is confined to a specific area of Germany and only applies to salads. This summer, there will be stacks of cheap fruit and veg but next summer it will be expensive. This scare will put a good few producers out of business, so dig over that lawn and be ready to fill it with vegetables next spring.
Here in the UK, we have Saucy HP telling us that vegetable consumption risks a condition that would allow you to shit through the eye of a needle. I think the EU should consider sending him the bill for this.
All in all, everyone gullible (ie most people) will be loading their freezer with fish fingers and burgers and saying sod the vegetables.
You would think, then, that this week is a very, very bad time to promote the consumption of vegetables among children. Then again, we are dealing with pressure groups composed of people who are barely self-aware, never mind aware of their surroundings.
It's true that a heavy, stodgy diet will slow you down. That's not news, we've known about that for decades in science and for centuries in Granny Lore. There are many things your granny 'just knew' that are actually very true indeed. It didn't come from official science but from generations of experience. Unfortunately, scientists dismiss everything Granny says because she didn't publish a peer-reviewed paper on the subject.
In fact, all of you already know this. Who feels like exercise after a huge Christmas dinner? Most people feel like sleeping afterwards and the sonorous tones of the Queen's Speech are a great help in achieving this. Better yet, the 'Sound of Music'. I have never seen the end of that film. Usually I pass out while trying to parse the grammatical insanity of that 'Doh, a deer' song.
True, eating lightly before an exam is the best idea. Enough to avoid feeling hungry but not enough to make you want to nod off during three hours of immobility in a silent room.
It doesn't have to be vegetables. Eating lightly means just that - the opposite of a hefty three course meal. A small pork pie would do the job. Or a doughnut. Both are cooked and both are subject to food-testing so the risk of rumbly in your tumbly halfway through an exam question on the projectile capacity of the human rectum is very low.
It's low with fruit and vegetables too. Despite what Saucy HP wants you to believe, despite the terror in the eyes of the greengrocer as he gets you to sign a waiver when you buy tomatoes, the risk is very, very low indeed. Lower than the risk of catching rabies by brushing past a smoker. Although I have met people who believe that one, but then I have met people who will believe anything that suits their personal paranoia. They're fun.
Fruit and vegetables are good things to eat. That's why I grow them. Yet now is not the time I would choose to promote such things or even draw attention to them. It's a bit like deciding to sell a seafront property in Japan - now is not a good time.
The infection is very nasty. I admit to a chuckle at the advice 'if you're crapping blood you should consider seeing a doctor' because there can't be anyone on the planet incapable of thinking that for themselves. Haemolytic uraemic syndrome is a pretty name. It means you've moved beyond crapping blood and are now pissing it too. If you haven't had the sense to seek medical advice by that stage then, frankly, the average value of human intellect will be improved by your demise.
It's serious. It's nasty. It can kill. So can yellow fever but we don't have that in the UK either. Nor do we have leprosy or much in the way of Dengue fever or elephantiasis. I don't think we have rabies here but looking at the frothing mouths and evident insanity of the likes of Shenker and Arnott and their drones, I can't be certain.
If a greengrocer or farmer comes down with this, I'd be wary. I'd only buy veg that needs to be, or can be, cooked. Fruit can be made into fruit crumble (real butter in that crumble, no plasticine). All variants of E. coli are killed by pasteurisation and you only need to get above 73C for fifteen seconds to exceed that. Roasting, they have no chance.
So far the only victims are those who have eaten salads in certain parts of Germany. My brother visits Germany often for work, but I'm not worried. He has never knowingly eaten a salad and there's nothing to suggest it's in the beer so he'll be fine. I wouldn't worry about travel to Germany either. Just don't eat salads while there.
This outbreak, if it really is in salads, should be contained by now. It's not difficult. There might be cases popping up after containment depending on how long it takes the infection to fire up, but in a sensible world (oh dear) it should already have been sorted. So far there has been no sign of person-to-person transmission but with this bacterium, it can happen. Quick and easy measures can prevent it. If the EU didn't move like a sedated sloth in response to emergencies this would have been a page 5 news story.
Even so, this is not the week I would have chosen to promote vegetable consumption. I'd have waited a while.