We need to check organic crops for bacteria, to ensure they really are healthy – and safe to eat
by Mischa Popoff
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) prohibits synthetic nitrogen fertilizer in organic production and encourages natural compost. But it does not test for un-composted feces, relying instead on record-keeping and record-checking. As I have said before, this can create serious problems.
At least 140 people across eight states have now fallen ill after consuming hepatitis-A-infected certified-organic frozen berries and pomegranate seeds; 61 were still in hospitals in mid-July.
For some strange reason, this outbreak is being linked in the media to improper hand washing instead of composting, landing this on the lap of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) instead of the USDA. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention meanwhile has made no such determination.
With almost a quarter-million 3-lb. bags recalled, improper hand washing is entirely implausible. Workers could never infect so much product and, in any case, no infected workers have been found. Un-composted feces (human or animal) spread across an entire field should not be eliminated as a possibility (by the media or anyone else), before less obvious theories are investigated.
Section §205.203 of the USDA National Organic Program (NOP), stipulates manure cannot “contribute to contamination of crops [or]soil” and details proper composting procedures. Failure to comply means an “excluded method” is being used which can result in a “prohibited substance” – i.e. feces – making its way into organic food. This section also prohibits the use of human waste (biosolids) for food crops. USDA NOP §205.670 and §205.671 then provide authority to the USDA to take samples and test for these most undesirable of substances.
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