According to a new report from Stericycle, recalls of organic foods for microbial reasons has increased in the past year. In fact, recalls of all foods is up significantly from the first quarter of 2015. That company analyzed data from the FDA and USDA for their study.
According to the USDA, 70% of consumers think that food is safer or of high quality if it is labeled organic. But organic food is just as susceptible to bacterial contamination as conventionally grown food.
There were 178 FDA food recalls in the second quarter of 2015, which is an increase of 47% from the previous quarter. Sixty-two percent of those recalls were for bacterial contamination, mostly for Salmonella and Listeria. Vegetables were 61% of the recall activity.
Foods recalled by the USDA, which include meat, poultry, and eggs, also increased in the second quarter 2015. There were 10.7 million pounds recalled, which is about 10 times the volume of food recalled in the first quarter. The leading cause of those recalls was undeclared allergens.
And organic food recalls were 8% of all food units recalled. That doesn’t sound like much, until you consider that organic foods were only 2% of all food unites recalled in 2014. And in 2012 and 2013, only 1% of total food units recalled were organic.
Growing consumer and corporate demand for organic ingredients is partially responsible for the increase. But what is troubling is that all of the recalls of organic food have been for pathogenic bacteria contamination.
So if you buy organic foods, especially produce, don’t be complacent about food safety. Bacteria is everywhere, and everything can be contaminated. Wash produce carefully and thoroughly before you prepare it and before you eat it. Cook meat, poultry, and eggs to well done. And be aware of cross-contamination possibilities when you are in the kitchen. Wash your hands well before preparing food and after handling raw meat, poultry, and eggs.