It is not that I am a paranoid hypochondriac worried about my health like some of the famous nutcases of the past. I am just being practical. Which is why after Chipotle became E-Coli headquarters, it will take quite some time before I swing by that place again.
Here in the US, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention do a fantastic job of tracking food-borne illnesses. However, such monitoring is about the big food corporations and restaurants. What about those friendly farmers markets that every town in the US seem to have on Saturdays? Are the food stuff sold there pathogen-free?
As we will report in an updated version of an unpublished working paper released last summer, we found correlations that, in statistical parlance, are too robust to ignore. First, we found a positive correlation between the number of farmers markets per capita in a given state and in a given year and the number of reported outbreaks, regardless of type, of food-borne illness per capita in that state that year. Then, we found a similar positive correlation between farmers markets per capita and reported individual cases of food-borne illness per capita.
More interestingly, we found similar positive correlations between farmers markets per capita and outbreaks per capita of norovirus, a common cause of gastroenteritis. Likewise, we found a similar positive correlation between farmers markets per capita and outbreaks per capita of Campylobacter jejuni, a bacterium typically found in animal feces that is also a common cause of gastroenteritis.
Not that I frequent the local Saturday market; but, you think I will want to go there after reading something like that? ;)
Many consumers frequent these markets because they believe that the foods they purchase there are healthier and safer than the same items sold at supermarkets, posing less risk of food-borne illness.
The authors do underline the point that they have merely found robust correlations.
it would be a critical mistake to conclude that the foods sold at farmers markets are themselves to blame. That is because most cases of illness are caused by consumers who undercook or fail to wash their food. Indeed, our results may suggest that many people erroneously believe that food bought at farmers markets needn’t be washed because it is “natural.”
In other words, just because it is from a local farmer, it does not mean it will always be healthy. Just because it is "natural" it does not mean that we can be lax in our food preparation routines. Shit can happen anywhere. Oh, sorry, it is the shit that is the reason for most of those pathogens ;)