Organic Food Recalls Raise Safety Questions

Whether organic or not, food safety and the defects in the food safety system do not discriminate. Yahoo reports that just because a food is organic, consumers should not be fooled into believing that those foods are immune to pathogenic attacks, pointing to two organic <"">food recalls this week alone.

For example, First Class Foods, Hawthorne, California, issued a large recall of 34,373 pounds of organic beef over potential contamination with the E. coli bacteria. That recall was implemented on December 30th, said Yahoo, which noted that the recalled beef was distributed in California, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Washington State, and Wisconsin and was sold under the Organic Harvest and Nature’s Harvest.

The day before, Tiny Greens Organic Farm recalled alfalfa and Spicy Sprouts over concerns of potential contamination with the Salmonella pathogen, said Yahoo. In this case, the sprouts were distributed in Illinois, Indiana, and Missouri.

Specialty Foods also recently recalled organic alfalfa sprouts and sprout salad over potential Listeria contamination and, prior, Organicgirls issued a recall over concerns about Salmonella contamination, noted Yahoo. Even Whole Foods Markets, which touts itself as “sellers of the highest quality natural and organic foods,” wrote Yahoo, has experienced a number of food recalls in recent months. A recall of Rolf’s Patisserie gingerbread houses and other baked goods was implemented on Christmas Eve; a Whole Foods-brand nutmeg over Salmonella contamination concerns followed; and a recall of Bravo Farms cheeses took place in November, said Yahoo.

Although some feel that organic foods are immune to pathogenic contamination, generally because organic foods are considered healthier, A senior scientist with the Consumers Union, Urvashi Rangan, said in a New York Times article in 2009 that, “Because there are some increased health benefits with organics, people extrapolate that it’s safer in terms of pathogens. I wouldn’t necessarily assume it is safer,” reported Yahoo.

The Times noted that organic certification is not an indicator of food safety and that inspectors of organic food do not investigate for pathogens; therefore, when an organic product becomes contaminated with foodborne pathogens, the prevailing food safety system is responsible for detection, explained Yahoo. Issues in the food safety system affect organic and nonorganic foods without discrimination.

Last month, we wrote that, in an attempt to reduce food poisoning incidences and foodborne illness outbreaks, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that it was requesting a budget of $4.3 billion to protect and promote the public health as part of the President’s fiscal year (FY) 2012 budget, a 33 percent increase over the FDA-enacted budget for FY 2010. The FY 2012 request covers the period from October 1, 2011, through September 30, 2012. The FDA 2012 budget proposed four critical initiatives and increases:

• Transforming Food Safety and Nutrition Initiative($324 million)
• Advancing Medical Countermeasures ($70 million) Initiative
• Protecting Patients Initiative ($124 million)
• Regulatory Science and Facilities Initiative ($49 Million)

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