Reviewed by Kathleen Zelman on February 14, 2012
Marion Nestle, PhD, MPH, Paulette Goddard Professor, Nutritionist and author, New York, NY.
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Is organic food more liable to be infected with E. coli?
The answer is an emphatic no.
Because the organic standards, the standards that are set by the Department of Agriculture to allow foods to be labeled as certified organic require treatment of any manure that is put on fields.
The manure must be treated to a certain temperature to kill harmful organisms. It must be on the field for a certain amount of time before vegetables can be grown on it.
These rules do not apply to conventionally grown produce. Conventionally grown produce can put any kind of manure on the fields that it wants to.
So, in fact, the conventionally grown produce is more liable to be contaminated with e. coli than is organic. Both kinds could be contaminated, because these accidents happen.
But the conventionally grown is more liable to be at risk.
But you would still encourage everybody to wash everything?
I would encourage everybody to wash vegetables and I would encourage dealing with congressional representatives about requiring conventionally grown agriculture to take steps and precautions
to make sure that any manure on the fields is treated properly. That's what the FDA has been trying to get these producers to do since 1998, but it has no authority to force them to.