Is Your Lettuce Trying to Kill You?

Dr. Jeff Langholz, a professor at MIIS (Monterey Institute of International Studies) revealed some of the horrors of large-scale farming at the most recent Center for Ocean Solutions (Twitter @oceansolutions) policy meeting. 

Did you know that huge corporations like McDonalds, Wal•Mart, Wendy’s, Costco and many others, demand, in what Langholz calls a “food safety arms race,” that farmers, including small organic farmers, destroy wildlife? These gargantuan purveyors of lettuce (and other crops) have demanded – against environmental law, as a matter of fact – that, for the sake of “food health,” farmers must comply with certain horrific practices like wiping out all the wildlife on and around their farms? They also must provide “buffer zones” – once natural areas, that have been reduced to raw dirt – to make killing the animals easier. The dead zones make it easier for E. coli to wash in from farms where cattle are raised. Farmers are often required by these corporations – not the government – to fill in adjacent wetlands, and even poison the water. 

Also, PVC pipes filled with “rodenticides,” are required by some buyers like Wal•Mart to be placed every 50 to 100 feet around the perimeter of the farm. In other words, there is a “scorched earth policy” in place to ensure “food safety.”

So, next time you eat a double cheeseburger with (Salinas) lettuce from McDonalds (a polymorphously unhealthy act), or buy lettuce at Costco or Wal•Mart, you are supporting a tragically unhealthy farming system, which perversely decimates Nature and poisons the soil in the name of ensuring our health. 

The moral? Buy locally grown, organic produce. “How can you be sure your farmers market produce is free of chemicals?” I asked Dr. Langholz at dinner. “You can’t.” But, you know what? I’ll take my chances. Oh, and lettuce in bags is a great way to grow E. coli bacteria.

By the way, the dinner after the talk was a wonderful, catered melange of (I hope free-range) chicken, rice, veggie stir-fry, Chinese dumplings, beer and wine. The place-settings for the dinners, held once a month in the Heritage Harbor complex, are a “mess kit” of reusable cup, plate, stainless flatware – even a serrated Ikea knife with a woven cover! 

Dr. Langholz’s research focuses on biodiversity conservation and sustainable development.” (from MIIS site) Dr. Langholz’ talk – and study – are titled, “Safe & Sustainable.” You can download his thorough report at


14 thoughts on “Is Your Lettuce Trying to Kill You?

  1. Thank you for this good information which is enlightening and not surprizing. I have not eaten anything a Macdonalds 40 years and stopped buying from Walmart years ago.

    Good article Paul!

  2. I’ve always known those fast food chains are terrible for your health and the environment. I avoid these places at all cost. Been years since I’ve seen the inside of a McD’s.

    Didn’t know about packaged lettuce, I’ll add that to my list as well. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Thanks for your comments. It was pretty shocking to me that a co. like Wal•Mart or Costco can require farmers to disobey environmental laws (like wiping out entire ecosystems) if they want to sell them their produce. I still can’t believe that can happen. This has to stop.

  3. Thanks Paul for this alarming information. I have made a habit years ago to buy organic produce wherever and whenever possible. I avoid the bad guys except non-food at Costco. Do you have info about the large packaged lettuce “manufacturers” available at health food stores?

    1. No, I don’t. Most of the info from the lecture is in my blog. you could try the website and download the report on food safety; it’s long and probably a bit tedious. Here’s the address: Thanks for the comments.

  4. Thank you for educating all of us about this,very grateful.Its really sad that we don’t really know what we are eating at this point…from anywhere- FDA issues alerts and then we find out-sometimes….but the more we all learn and know atleast we can be aware and educate others, like you are doing…But it also explains alot about people experiencing more food reactions and allergies..

    1. Thanks for your response. It is truly frightening what huge corporations like Wal•Mart, Costco, McDonalds, etc., etc., are doing to our environment, our food, our souls. We have to take a stand, and refuse to support those companies that desecrate our planet, poison us, strangle the life out of our communities and rob us. I have been aware of some of the atrocities of agribusiness, but was truly shocked that huge corporations issue ultimatums to farmers to violate environmental laws or risk not selling their crops. Here’s to healthy food, healthy people and healthy communities. LOVE.

  5. seriously I had no idea…I don’t eat at those places…we eat subway alot..
    but otherwise due to a ton of allergies ( due to a severe latex allergy) I can only eat certain things from certain places…but I do think alot of people when they eat at fast food are trying to eat healthy and now that looks like it’s not really possible either…

    (and lucky for you-there is some really good food in PG and some great food at that market….I still dream about that market-esp the produce

    take care..thank U for keeping people aware and in the know…namaste.

  6. Ok this is the second time this article got my attention which says a lot as I know almost all of this sort of thing.

    When I am out; being a health nut people expect me to have a salad but I only will have one if I know it is organic. Lettuce is one of the most toxic laden of the foods.

    This is why I always buy organic lettuce and as much as possible from local. Better yet I grow my own in the summer.

    1. Thanks for your comments. It is pretty difficult to be sure we are eating “clean” food. Let’s hope we can expose the machinations of the Food Industrial Complex, and bring our economies/gardens back to the local level, where there is more possibility of accountability and oversight.

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