People often complain about news outlets that engage in multi-siderism: No matter what the topic the story must contain a variety of viewpoints. Some of the viewpoints may be wrong and dangerously so, but they must be presented because
reporters who understand the topic enough to call bullshit are expensive it is only fair that all sides are heard.
Perhaps then people who don’t like that method of reporting will be happy to learn that in a recent segment about the outbreak of e. coli that has been linked to romaine lettuce, CNN interviewed one source.
Anchor Ana Cabrera kicked things off by describing self-appointed food investigator Vani Hari as someone who has “studied where our food comes from quite a bit” before asking how the outbreak happened.
“[W]hat’s the worst part of this situation is that we do not have a supply chain check-and-balance in place,” Hari said. “Once your romaine is grown and harvested, it has so many different touch points of contamination possible. You know, that romaine is taken to one factory to get washed. Then another factory to get bagged, put into different bags of lettuce and then combined with other kinds of lettuce. And every single time it gets cut or washed it touches different machinery so there’s so many different points of contamination that can happen. And if we don’t know where our food is coming from, we can’t really trust it.”
Hari’s advice? Buy whole heads of lettuce instead of the bagged or boxed types, to avoid these “touch points of contamination.”
“[W]hen I go out and I buy romaine lettuce or any type of lettuce, I avoid the bag and box lettuces and I really go for, like, the whole head of lettuce,” she said.
True, the one source didn’t know what she’s talking about. Hari is one of the many people who has no training in fields like nutrition or food science, but who has found a way to make lots of lettuce from America’s multi-gajillion dollar neuroses about food and gaining weight. To give you an idea of the crank level we’re dealing with, she blames a bout of acute appendicitis on her eating habits. According to Hari, food goes through the intestines, the appendix is part of the intestines, ergo a person’s diet must cause appendicitis. So it should come as no surprise that she advised who knows how many viewers that the solution to the risk of e. coli from contaminated lettuce is to buy a whole head of potentially contaminated lettuce.
Perhaps CNN has decided it won’t risk confusing viewers with contradictory comments from people who do know what they’re talking about, such as someone from the CDC, or this spokesperson from the FDA.
“It’s true that there are more points of contamination,” the spokesperson said. “But just because a whole head of lettuce is going through less steps between consumers and where it’s grown does not make it necessarily safer than a bag of chopped up lettuce.”
That’s because E. coli can contaminate lettuce in the field, making the number of touch points irrelevant in such a case. “To say the romaine that went directly to a farmer’s market from the field is safer than a bag of lettuce—that’s not true,” the spokesperson said.
I wonder where this approach to reporting will take CNN and other outlets next? A man who says the best way to prevent flaccid myelitis is to have the kiddies drink a cup of their own pee a day? Or maybe they can get King Kumquat on to discuss tariffs.