2006_9_health_spinach.gifSince the e. coli scare began, our spinach and leafy green consumption has gone from zero servings a day to, well, zero servings a day. But our more herbivorous readers may be sad to see that officials still haven't found how a bacteria that normally romps around our bowels made its way to our favorite iron-filled flora. The Times reports that the outbreak of the past few weeks, which may have killed as many as three people and poisoned almost 200 others (including plenty of kids and 11 New Yorkers), is currently without a clear source and may always remain without one. This is in spite of the fact that officials have localized the center of the outbreak to the California counties of Monterey, San Benito, and Santa Clara.

While schoolchildren everywhere rejoice at the prospect of not having to eat something good for them and not made of chocolate, the economic effects of the infestation are rippling across the food chain, so to speak, hitting spinach pickers, farmers, and restaurants. Losses are estimated to hover in the $100 million a month range. Some colorful theories being bandied about as to how the contamination occurred include the dumping of portable toilets onto crops and rodents sullying farmland as only they can.

The good news is that our friends at the FDA say that spinach grown outside of those three Salinas Valley counties is safe to eat. So if you MUST get your Popeye on, check out the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets site and support a local farm which can hook you up with some serious green. The bad news is because the symptoms of the infection can take a few weeks to show up in some cases, new cases will continue to arise into mid-October and thus the taint of tainted spinach will be with us for a while.

Related: Treehugger.com takes a look at how spinach from way over in California finds its way to the dinner tables of homes across America.

In the meanwhile, we got the latest FDA statement here.

Other Health and Science Buzz

+ Despite NYU's recent decision to provide health care for all of their undergraduates, a new HPV (the virus that causes genital warts, cervical cancer) vaccine will not be included in the plan. Promiscuous students with private insurance to breathe collective sigh of relief.

+ Transgendered New Yorkers! Wish you were born a boy or girl but weren't? Well now you can be/could have been/were.

+ Eating a bag of potato chips every day is bad for you.

+ Walking is not exercise. WTF?

+ Send your sweetheart a real nerdy love note.