Does Organic also mean "Safe"?
The ongoing US outbreak of E coli O157: H7 attributed to
organic spinach as the vehicle should stimulate concern among poultry producers
in relation to their products. By Simon
The ongoing US outbreak of E coli O157: H7 attributed to organic spinach as
the vehicle should stimulate concern among poultry producers in relation to
As of Sunday 17th September, cases have been recorded in 20 states with over
150 confirmed diagnoses, numerous hospitalizations and at least one fatality.
Preliminary investigations have tentatively identified one large organic produce
farm in California as the source but epidemiologic investigations are in
progress to establish the mechanism by which spinach became infected. In all
probability cattle manure used as a "natural" fertilizer will be implicated,
following previous cases of VTEC infection in children consuming organic
non-pasteurized apple juice and lettuce.
The resulting publicity on TV and print media, incorporating statements from
representatives of the US-FDA and the Centers for Disease Control has resulted
in virtually all fresh packed spinach and salad mixes being withdrawn from
supermarket shelves and restaurant menus through the entire Nation.
Rules based on emotion not science
The prospect of an egg-borne Salmonella Enteritidis or paratyphoid outbreak
in consumers, associated with organic production is always a possibility as
flocks are housed on litter and allowed access to range. Organic rules
prevailing in the USA and the EU are strict as to exclusion of any GMO-derived
ingredients in feed. This restriction is based on emotion rather than science
since there are absolutely no adverse health effects from either direct
consumption of Bt-maize or RoundupÂ®-resistant soybean products or from feeding
these ingredients to livestock and poultry.
HACCP rules not applied to small-scale units
From personal observation and
experience small-scale units frequently are deficient in hygiene and biosecurity
and lack the surveillance systems for pathogens as applied by commercial farms
producing generic, branded and specialty eggs. Poultry meat processed in small
plants although conforming to organic rules may be contaminated with Salmonella
spp Erysipelothrix spp and Campylobacter jejuni due to failure to implement
HACCP and other sanitary precautions which are standard procedures in large
mechanized facilities with advanced evisceration and refrigeration installations.
Organic does not necessarily mean safe
The FDA has previously warned consumers that "organic" is not necessarily
equivalent to "safe". This contention is supported by recent studies conducted
by Universities in Ohio and California which confirmed higher levels of
potential pathogens on certified organic chickens at point of sale compared to
conventional products from large broiler integrations.
The magnitude and marketing implications of the E coli
outbreak currently in progress in the USA should be recognized by organic
producers. These farmers are ethically bound to apply all practical
scientifically proven methods to suppress food-borne pathogens in their products
and to implement appropriate surveillance and quality control procedures which
are standard in the commercial industry.
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