Thank you for writing about the massive outbreak of egg-based salmonella poisoning in the United States, affecting millions of consumers. We need to ask about some possible causes of this epidemic.

One of the larger issues appears to be continuation of shoddy, poorly regulated factory-farming practices for which Jack DeCoster and others have been fined in the past (and then relocated to a less-regulated state).

Eight scientific studies in the past five years have concluded that use of battery cages (chickens often spend their lives without enough room to walk or stretch their wings) has been linked to elevated levels of salmonella. In vertically stacked confinement, multiple chickens per cage develop stress and diseases due to being stuffed into small wire cages, and live unable to exercise or nest, surrounded by fecal matter and ammonia, over mounds of manure.

The disease levels of stressed, closely-confined chickens increases. The entire European Union, California and Michigan have been progressive enough to ban battery cage egg farms. Healthy, non-stressed birds produce healthy egg whites, which apparently protect the egg from acquisition of salmonella.

We are weary from years of greedy and egregious factory farming practices with the Jack DeCosters of agriculture. The Food and Drug Administration has been woefully inadequate at oversight or addressing conditions, that, aside from being inhumane, lead to outbreaks of diseases like salmonella. Yet we will continue to be shocked when outbreaks occur, until there is more proactive FDA oversight and enforcement.

But Maine can step up now, if not the federal government, to address what is safe and ethical, and mandate cage-free, humane farming practices, for our own consciences and for the public health of our citizens.

Ellen Zimmerman

South Portland

 

After all the violations and fines levied against Jack DeCoster and his egg operation in Turner several years ago, I assumed that he was driven out of the business.

An informal survey among friends and family suggests that many people assumed the same. I was shocked to hear that Jack DeCoster appears to be heavily involved in the current egg crisis.

If this is true, DeCoster should never again be permitted to operate within the food supply.

Thomas Travers

Old Orchard Beach

 

As a graduate student of public health at the University of New England, I recently wrote a paper concerning the environmental effects of industrial agriculture.

This letter is in response to the column “The real cost of the food we eat,” by Avery Yale Kamila, published in the Sept. 1. Press Herald.

The assumption posed by the author is that locally grown organic food is safer than the mass-produced products available in the grocery store. I am a big supporter of my local farmers market, and I believe in buying local.

It is important to point out, however, that overall, the nation’s food supply is safe. The number of cases of food-borne illness compared to the vast quantity of food consumed is very small. In the column, Don Lindgren is quoted as saying, “Every small producer is not going to be safer than a large producer.”

The consumer must be vigilant to wash fresh produce, cook meat to recommended temperatures and store food properly, regardless of where it is purchased.

Stephen J. Fox, RN

Scarborough

 

Cleaning public restrooms includes grab bars in stalls

 

I have been meaning to mention something about this for a long time. Businesses – wake up! The flu season is fast approaching and cleanliness, while next to godliness, is not something that most people in business take notice of.

Let’s focus on restaurants and doctors’ offices. Narrow that focus on the public restrooms and, more specifically, on the grab bars in the handicapped stalls.

Does anyone ever clean those? In my brief experience in having to use the handicapped facilities, I have found that 100 percent of the grab bars in restaurants, doctors’ offices and even hospitals are overlooked. I wipe them down with a sanitary wipe and they always are so filthy, they are black.

This needs to be mentioned and dealt with.

Martha Hurd-Call

Standish

Wind power growing in U.S. and elsewhere

 

A reader recently asked for some hard data on wind power. Here are a few snippets: World wind power grew 31 percent in 2009. It now totals more than 157 gigawatts. That is roughly equivalent to 100 standard (1.5-gigawatt) nuclear plants.

Wind provides electricity in 70 countries, with the United States, Germany and Spain in the lead. Investors worldwide spent $63 billion on wind power installations in 2009. Globally, it serves roughly 250 million people.

In the United States, Texas is the biggest producer at 9-plus gigawatts. It has the largest wind farms. Interestingly, it was George W. Bush, the consummate oil man, who as governor of Texas helped launch its wind industry.

California is second. It’s estimated that wind power has generated about 60,000 jobs in the United States. Students are now being trained in Maine to serve this industry.

China is rushing pell mell to catch up. Its wind industry grew 100 percent last year. A Chinese company is now building a wind farm in the United States. Chinese wind-related stocks can be purchased on U.S. stock markets. China considers this a good investment.

Although some Harvard scientists have argued that wind power could satisfy all the electrical needs of the 10 biggest industrial powers, it seems likely that the future will see a mix of many kinds of renewable energy, along with diminishing amounts of fossil fuels.

Wind power, which is regarded by some as a novelty, has been in operation in the United States for nearly 200 years.

Wind power was as important in the conquest of the West as were the Winchester 94 and barbed wire. Windmills pumped water for cattle on the Great Plains and for steam engines in the railroad boom after the Civil War.

Wind power is very much at home in America.

Alfred Padula

Portland