How’s the safety of organic food working out for ya?

ecoliThe anti-GMO crowd constantly points to the lack of long-term safety studies of foods containing GMOs. They continue with this meme even though there have been hundreds of studies over the last 16 years attesting to their safety and major scientific and health organizations have signed off on them. The Big Ignore is the fact that in that time there hasn’t been one negative health effect on humans. Not one.

In order to protect themselves from the scourge of GMO foods, many have extolled the virtues of organic food, touting its safety and the imaginary idea that a $30 billion/year business is all mom and pop.  But as  I noted last year in Should organic foods be labeled, “May contain E.coli or Salmonellathat trust may be misplaced.

The E.coli outbreak in Germany that killed 50 people and hospitalized thousands in 2011 was caused by organic sprouts. Also, last year, sprouts from an Illinois organic farm sickened people in 26 states. These outbreaks didn’t come from conventional or GMO foods.

This year, an organic farm was responsible for at least 10 people being diagnosed with Campylobacter infections.

Well, we have an update. The latest news about the safest foods in the history of the planet comes from Taylor Farms which  just had to recall its organic spinach in 39 states due to an e.coli scare.

Let’s see what else has been going on. Multistate Outbreak of Shiga Toxin-producing Escherichia coli O157:H7 Infections Linked to Organic Spinach and Spring Mix Blend 

A total of 33 persons infected with the outbreak strain of Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coliO157:H7 (STEC O157:H7) were reported from five states.

46% of ill persons were hospitalized. Two ill persons developed hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a type of kidney failure, and no deaths were reported.

When they’re not poisoning us they’re trying to kill us with foreign objects in there foods.

Annie’s Recalling Homegrown Frozen Pizza for Foreign Objects.

Rudi’s Organic Bakery Breads Recalled for Foreign Objects

Back in 2011, Lundberg Farms, who helped finance the Prop. 37 labeling campaign had to recall its Sea Salt Rice Chips in Canada due to undeclared soy.

I’ve made this suggestion before and I will make it again. There needs to be labels on organic foods. Consumers have a right-to- know whether we might be at risk of  e.coli poisoning or have our stomachs sliced open from the inside by foreign objects. And the children. Think of the children. 

Considering that in 2011-2012 there were almost two dozen recalls of organic products due to illness, hospitalization and death, we should impose a moratorium on organic foods until the industry can prove they are 100% safe. There have been no long-term studies of organic foods and the effect of foreign objects in it.

<snark off>

13 thoughts on “How’s the safety of organic food working out for ya?”

  1. I eat a lot of organic produce because of the environment. I don’t think organics are better tasting, more nutritional, or safer. What I don’t like are chemicals going into the soil. So for me, it’s less about the food and more about the Earth. Is there any validity to the idea that traditional farms’ use of pesticides and chemicals does harm to the soil?

    1. Agree with you a hundred percent. I wish more people were as rational as this about it. There is no real health benefit from organic food but there is an argument to be made on environmental grounds. Intensive farming can produce more food more efficiently on less land, but organic food tends to be better for the local environment and wildlife. So what we need really is a good mix.

  2. Steven, the “chemicals” that go into the soil on non-organic farms are the same “chemicals” that are of use to plants when compost is used on organic farms: Nitrogen, Phosphorus, Potassium, and the like. Organics advocates like to use that term, “chemical,” because it sounds sufficiently scary to the lay public, conjuring visions of white-coated technicians holding foaming test tubes.

    There’s a lot of talk about there about the alleged killing of soils due to “chemicals.” Agricultural scientist Steven Savage addresses that in a comment I wrote on one of his blog posts:

    The pesticides scare is also totally overdone: I worked at an organic farm and had to be trained as a pesticides applicator just like employees on non-organic farms. Organic farmers use pesticides. That’s the truth of the matter.

    The issue of whether organic is “better for the environment” has not been demonstrated, to the best of my knowledge. It is such a complicated questions depending on so many variables–what are you growing? where are you growing it? under what conditions? in what climate?–etc., that it may well be unanswerable.

    1. I myself don’t consider e.Coli and salmonella an integral part of what I would personally consider a healthy lifestyle.

  3. Sounds like many of these problems are problems of mishandling produce rather than just being organic. Organic or not, I rarely eat sprouts anymore unless they are going to be cooked, like in pad thai, not going to risk e. coli.

  4. All food is at risk of being contaminated with bad bacteria!! It is a ludicrous idea to label organic food with a warning label. There is plenty of conventional produce that has been the source of illness and even death in people. Sure, some conventional food is irradiated to reduce that risk, but the foods chemical composition is also being altered in the process.
    The organic industry has regulations on what can be put on the ground… conventional produce can use sewage sludge as a fertilizer. There are also rules on what is acceptable manure use in organic production to try and reduce any contamination. But it happens, no system is perfect. Anyway, I recommend you read the rules and regulations for organic standards… look up the NOP if you are interested.
    And in regards to what Mike B said, yes organic farms do use pesticides… but they are very limited in what they can use and the allowed residue levels are very low at the time of harvest in organics. The organic industry is not perfect, and by no means 100 percent safe (not many things in life are), but at least it’s an effort to produce a healthier product that is kinder to the environment.
    I do happen to think it is interesting that you suggest that organic food should be synonymous with safe. I do not think that is the correct definition of organic food production, but I am sure that many other people think that organic food means healthy and safe.

  5. Many people think it is even more “ludicrous” that GMOs be labeled. Most people I talk to think that “organic” means no pesticides and are not aware that pesticides as toxic as rotenone are approved for organic use. I would rather have food that is fertilized by NO3 produced in commercially than from either manure or chilean nitrate (contaminated with perchlorate). The ecoli came from the fertilizer, not the handling process. You have the right to eat organic all you want, but I have not seen any scientific evidence that it is safer for the consumer or the environment.

  6. Thanks for this article…great common sense. There is always money to be made on worried parents and people who think eating organic means “healthy”. I have never bought organic anything unless it was on sale. To me, it’s like giving a begger money on the side of the highway. Organic food is the equivalent of me being asked if “I’d like to make a dollar donation to ‘save the children’ or whatever”. It seems noble…I look like a jerk if I DON’T want to save the children…but what the store ISN’T telling you is the huge tax deduction they make on behalf of all those one dollars. Organic food is about big business.

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