Are Organic Foods Safe or More Dangerous than Processed Foods?

By Tony Coveny, Ph.D., J.D., M.A.

Organic food is much hailed as a safer alternative to processed foods, with a reputation for no pesticides, added chemicals, antibiotics, growth hormone, or genetically modified properties.  But recently, given the number of recalls of organic food, the question remains “is organic food safe?” The veracity of claims that organic food is safer has much to do with the integrity of the producer, however, as oversight is weak and inconsistent.   I have personally been on a banana plantation in Costa Rica where organic versus non-organic was determined by whether the fruit had discoloration or brown spots.  Those that did were labelled as “Organic” and sent to the U.S. where consumers somehow expect organic fruit to be less “processes” looking.    That said, reputable domestic producers, and some foreign producers, take organic growth and harvesting practices seriously.  And more and more domestic retailers and restaurant chains are demanding foods that are more “natural,” even if not organic – such and restaurant chains requiring antibiotic-free chicken.

But other considerations should also play into the decision making process for families seeking to serve the safest food.  Organic food is made without industrial fertilizers, and that can mean the use of organic fertilizers that may contain fecal matter.   The use of manure can be dangerous, as can the use of compost materials if there is a fecal element.  Salmonella, E. coli, Cyclospora, and many other food borne pathogens are transmitted through fecal matter.

In addition, Organic foods are often grown and harvested without the use of pesticides.  Insects, and small animals like rodents, are capable of transmitting fecal material and many food borne pathogens.  It is arguably very difficult for a shopper to decide which is more dangerous for their family.

Finally, organic foods are often grown on smaller, family owned or coop operated facilities. These are subject to fewer restrictions and requirements than large agro operations, and often lack the pull time employment of those with operational knowledge of HACCP and GMPs , and are subject to fewer and less intrusive inspections.

What are consumers to do with this information? That is hard to say.  First, consumers should pay careful attention to where their organic products are sourced.  Second, careful cleaning is always a must!  Third, be careful when exposing the elderly and very young to organic products that are not carefully cleaned and or cooked to a proper temperature. Finally, realize that there are risks and potential benefits on both sides.  Each family must make the choice that best fits it.

Now, back to the  Recall of Inspired Organics Peanut Butter:

In a recall originally announced on December 11, 2018, Inspired Organics has added Organic Peanut Butter to the list because of the potential of listeria contamination. The company produces organic butters distributed by Lipari Foods, LLC, based in Warren, Michigan. The recall originally included only the company’s Organic Sunflower Butter and was then expanded to also include Organic Almond Butter.

Inspired Organics is now recalling essentially all of its organic butter products, including Organic Tahini Butter as well. These potentially contaminated products were distributed to food service and retail stores throughout Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Ontario, Canada. Oskri Corporation of Lake Mills, Wisconsin, manufactures Inspired Organics nut and seed butters.

The additional recall is being issued after product testing following previous recalls returned presumptive positive test results for potential contamination of Listeria monocytogenes. Inspired Organics products have been tested by the company, by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD).

Listeria monocytogenes is an organism that can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems. Healthy individuals may suffer symptoms such as high fever, severe headache, stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain, and diarrhea.

Recalled Inspired Organics products now include:

  • 16-ounce Organic Almond Butter, UPC 863669742540
  • 16-ounce Organic Peanut Butter, UPC 863669742588
  • 16-ounce Organic Tahini Butter, UPC 863669742564

For more information about the Organic Foods, this Organic Food Peanut Butter recall, which included the Inspired Organics nut and seed butter products, or the health effects of listeria contamination (especially Listeria’s effect on Pregnant Women), please contact the food poisoning lawyers at 1-888-335-4901.

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