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Natural Selection Foods: Organic spinach not to blame

Monday, September 18, 2006

Contrary to claims of those sympathetic to chemical-intensive farming, all cases of this most recent outbreak of E. coli have been traced back to packages of non-organic spinach, according to Natural Selection Foods—the manufacturer, which produces both conventional and organic spinach.

But this current outbreak brings to light a possibility that is all too easily capitalized on by big agribusiness and its PR people, front groups, etc. What if the E. coli poisonings had been traced back to organic spinach? Would that prove that organic produce is more susceptible to deadly strains of viruses? The answer is no, but the negative buzz just from that suggestion does plenty of damage to the organic movement and to consumers who are misled by such claims.

The most popular junk theories are derivative versions of the following: ”Organic farmers rely more heavily on natural manure products, so their crops are more likely to carry deadly strains of E. coli.” Not so. Both conventional AND organic farmers use manure as a part of regular fertilization programs. Certified organic farmers, however, must maintain a farm plan detailing the methods used to build soil fertility, including the application of manure, as mandated by the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990 and the National Organic Program rule of December 2000. All manure must be composted as well.

The CDC acknowledges the absence of a correlation between E. Coli risk and organic produce:

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has not conducted any study that compares or quantitates the specific risk for infection with Escherichia coli 0157:H7 and eating either conventionally grown or organic/natural foods.

Once federal officials have pinpointed the source of the contamination and lifted their current advisories, Spinach will remain one of the vegetables most highly contaminated with pesticide residues--including DDT--even after washing.

[ Link: E. Coli Facts : Organic Trade Association ]

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