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Friday, June 10, 2011


Fox News reports that German disease control center says locally grown vegetable sprouts are to blame for the deadly E. coli outbreak. This is to keep my readers informed. I hope they will finally make up their minds.

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Monday, June 6, 2011


Earlier today I posted a blog on Cow Manure as Organic Fertilizer and suggested we be careful about consuming organic vegetables until we know whether the cows manure used in some organic growing operations is free of the deadly strain of E coli O157:H7. I also mentioned that the most recent outbreak was said to be related to the eating of contaminated bean sprouts. This morning German health officials stated that bean sprouts are not the culprit source of the contamination. I guess we will have to see how this works out.

But the warning of potential contamination of organically grown vegetables should be heeded.

nicola michael tauraso. M.D.
6 June 2011

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Busycon caniculatum -- Busycon canaliculatum – the channeled whelk

Today was an usual day. I spent the day watching the Bolsa (stock market) tank because of a series of bad economic data. Bored in the early afternoon, I decided to rest in bed. While day dreaming I was brought back to a time many, many years ago when I was at a very small beach across the street from the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) in Woods Hole, Massachusetts. I spent 2 summers there between after my fourth year of college and the first year of medical school. I worked at the MBL in the chemistry lab dispensing chemicals and making chemical solutions for the scientists working there. It was a great job where I met many of the top scientists around the world working on biological projects, many on experiments with marine animals.

Every day after work and on weekends I used to lie on the very small beach with Ginger, my loyal Golden Retriever, across the street from MBL. It was not a swimming beach, so I snorkeled and watched marine life in the 2 – 3- feet of water. It was very quiet there so much so that while snorkeling with my ears under water I began to hear faint grinding sounds. Further observations drew me to these amazing conches that I used to see in the Italian seafood markets in Boston. They were edible and the Italians, and I am sure other people bought them for cooking. In fact, my father bought some home to cook one day. Boy, were they rubbery. I guess we did not know how to prepare them because I have tasted conches in restaurants over the years and they were tender.

So this was my introduction to conches, otherwise known as the channeled whelk, Busycon caniculatum or canaliculatum. These crustaceans are found in waters of Cape Cod (where I was) south to Northern Florida. They were also introduced into San Francisco Bay. Commercial fishermen who sell them in local markets harvest the channeled whelk. Many fishermen kill them because they destroy large numbers of quahog, which are harvested commercially and is a source of livelihood for many.
These large snails growing up to 8 inches are also known as conches or winkles. They are most active during the months of March through October. Both species of conchs are carnivorous predators, spending most of their time gliding along or just beneath the sand on the ocean floor, in search of food, consisting of other snails or clams or other shellfish. Conches are also attracted to traps or pots baited with dead limulus (Horseshoe crabs), or fish that is used for lobster bait.

So what was this grinding noise? For many, and I mean many, hours I observed that the grinding noise was coming from a conch that was attached to a large clam we called a quahog. After the grinding noise stopped quahog I noticed that at the edge of the quahog the shell was flattened exposing the mantle of the clam at the early stage. Eventually, the clam was dead with all its contents empty.

I took a conch to the lab and prepared the tissues of the pseudopodium for sectioning, staining, and embedding on a slide for microscopic examination. I used the usual Haematoxylin and Eosin staining but obtained more intense color staining when I used what was called a tri-chrome stain. I noticed intense staining of what appeared to be glands, probably gland that produced digestive juices. I made careful colored drawings at the time, which have since been lost after over 50 + years. I concluded that the conch grinded the edge of the clam and when the inside mantle was exposed the conch poured digestive juices into the clam killing it, of course, and sucking the digested contents out killing the clam.

Today I decided to Google how a conch eats a clam. One account, which coincides with what, scientists told me at the time of my observations, is the following:

“Snails that have an aperture canal, like the whelk, are carnivores. (Herbivores do not have this nose-protecting structure because they do not need to smell in order to find food.) Whelks are predators on burrowing clams. They use the nose, or proboscis, to bind these buried animals by sensing the stream of water flowing out of the clam’s feeding tubes. Once its prey is located the whelk digs down into the sand to capture it. To open the clam it wraps its muscular foot around the shells and pries the shell apart. Large clams may be opened by striking it with the whelk’s own strong shell until the clamshell cracks. Often the whelk will wedge the clam’ shell with the aperture canal and chip away pieces until an opening is formed. The mouth of the whelk is normally hidden deep within the body. When feeding it extends this structure, which resembles an elephant’s trunk, out to the food. (A large whelk’s “trunk” may be up to six inches long.) The mouth is at the very tip and, like most snails has a radula at the opening. The radula is a tooth-studded organ used to tear the food into small pieces to be swallowed.”

I have emboldened that part which was not supported by my observations. I do not see how a conch can pry the shell apart. Starfishes can do and actually do pry open a clam, but not a conch. How can a whelk strike the clam with its strong shell? It would take a third party to do this, and I never found a clam with a cracked shell. Chipping away pieces of the clam is not a correct description of the process. The conch actually grinds away at the border of the clam’ shell until the mantle of the clam is exposed.

Nothing beats actual observation. And this is mine.

nicola michael Tauraso, M.D.
6 June 2011

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I have told this story before. But, in light of the recent outbreaks of deadly E. Coli infections in Germany, my story demands repetition.

A number of years ago, about the time when there were outbreaks of E. Coli (O157:H7) infections associated with Jack-in-the-Box restaurants in Seattle (1993), I was travelling around the country giving lectures on Stress, Nutrition, and Holistic Health. I had just finished a lecture in Seattle, WA and had to travel across the Cascade Mountains on my way to Yacima, WA for my next lecture. It rains considerably in Seattle with the highest rainfall accumulation close to the Pacific and decreasing as one travels east. As one travels down the east side of the Cascade Range, the rainfall is considerably reduced until one arrives in the high desert area of Washington State where it is quite dry.

As one travels down the eastside of the mountain range there on the right of the main highway there is the very large facility of the Washington Beef Company. To the right of the main facility there is a tremendous feeder lot where cows are herded and grain fed to finish the process of fattening them up before slaughter. Since I travelled around the country once per year for about six years, I made the following observation on at least three occasions. Because I started my late winter tour in January in the eastern southern states, I continued my lecture tour along the middle southern states, then towards California, up the Western coast to Seattle, crossing the upper western states of Washington, Montana. N. Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Ohio then returning home to Frederick, MD at about May. The reason of going in such detail is to explain why I was in Washington State about March, a time of considerable rainfall.

I observed on at least three occasions the feeder lots completely muddy to the point that the cows in most of the lot were knee deep in mud eating at the food troughs. Now I know that the cows may be washed when they enter the slaughterhouse. Can we really believe the all that mud can be washed off entirely? I cannot believe that the washing can be that complete. This together with the fact that the Washington Beef Company is the most likely source of beef feeding the Seattle area might explain why outbreaks occurred in Seattle.

One year at the end of my tour after arriving home, I decided to call the USDA in Washington, DC. I finally spoke with a man who said he was in charge of such matters. I described my observations. His response was that they were “on top of the situation.” Well if he was indeed “on top of the situation,” why was I able to make similar observations the following year? Obviously, I got the typical beaurocratic response that was intended to keep my mouth shut. To me the USDA were not interested, did not care, or incompetent. I have yet to meet an individual who works for government admit that he does not know or that he ever made a mistake. If you find one tell me and I will award him a medal.

Fast forward to about 5 years ago when E. coli contamination of vegetables in the West were discovered to be due to cow fecal contamination from water run off from fields where cows were grazing in to areas where vegetables were being grown.

Fast forward to our current problem of vegetable contamination in Germany. Today, I heard that the contamination was traced to contaminated bean sprouts. On TV they showed a greenhouse but I had no way of knowing that the sprouts were actually grown in the greenhouses shown on TV.

I was thinking whether these sprouts were grown organically. In organic farming cow manure is allowed. I am bringing up the question whether the cow manure or cow manure compost used in organic farming is checked for the presence on the toxin-producing E. coli, and whether these bacteria are destroyed in the composting process. I will continue my research to get more answers.

We know that the sources thus far of the toxin-producing E. coli have been cows. It would be prudent to determine the association of cows with each outbreak.

At this point before we fully know how widespread is the use of cow manure in the growing of organic vegetables, it would be prudent to be cautious. When buying organic vegetables all one sees on the grocery shelf is that the organic vegetables are certified, what ever that means!

nicola michael Tauraso, M.D.
5 June 201
email: drtauraso@drtauraso.com
site: www.drtauraso.com

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