Promoted heavily by Animal Rights lobbyists and Organic food activists, organic food is healthier. Not any more.
The largest food poisoning outbreak in modern European history has been traced back to a small organic farm in Northern Germany.
If one is going to pursue the organic ideology, one has to be prepared for the risks. It is your chioce, but Food Myth Busters believes the Australian public must be made aware of the risks.
Organic food can be inheriantly more risky as it relies more on animal manure enriched soils, but sprouts are a special case. Adriana Velez spoke with food poisoning lawyer Bill Marler, an expert on food safety featured in the documentary film Food Inc.
"What Marler told me surprised me. Not only do we need to rethink the idea of organic farms being safer, we also shouldn't assume small, local farms are risk-free. And you should definitely rethink the idea of eating raw sprouts at all!"
"It turns out that when it comes to contamination, sprouts are a special case. First of all, the same growing conditions that are ideal for growing sprouts are also ideal for growing bacteria. Once contaminated, you can't wash the bacteria off of sprouts. In fact, the FDA considers eating raw sprouts on the same level of risk as eating raw beef -- not medium rare burgers, raw beef. They recommend children and elderly people avoid eating raw sprouts at all, even sprouts you grow yourself.
So what if the sprouts come from an organic grower -- or from a small grower at your farmers' market? It's actually very difficult to tell whether a sprout contamination comes from bad water or bad seeds. And the sprout market is so small that almost all growers -- organic, conventional, big, small -- get their seeds from the same few suppliers. It's not like organic or small growers are necessarily sprouting from special, safer seeds.
So organic or small and local sprouts are not inherently safer than conventional sprouts from large growers. "Bacteria doesn't know the difference between a small farm and a larger farm," Marler says. "But if you're looking at relative risk, eating locally does reduce the risk that your food will get contaminated by other foods in the distribution channel -- just not to zero.""
This food poisoning event highlights that any food ideology you may follow, won't protect you from E.coli. Only safe food handling will.
For information about Australian food safety, go to http://www.foodstandards.gov.au/consumerinformation/