But whatever the reason for the unfortunate linkage of the E.coli problem
with organic and natural foods, the Organic Trade Association, California
Certified Organic Farmers, and others are engaged in education and damage
control with the media. The following statement was issued today by the
Organic Trade Association through the business wire service.
The unfortunate contamination of unpasteurized apple juice and applie-uice
containing blends in sev3ral Western states has resulted in a number of
reports which mistakenly associate organic farming and production methods
with the cause of the recent incident and resulting illnesses in the West.
"We need to set the record stright here," said Mark Retzloff, President of
the Organic Trade Association. "First, the contaminatedfruit juices were
not organic. Second, and more important are the issues of pasteurization
and the use of manures as fertilizer in agriculture generally."
Pasteruization is the standard process by which foods and beverages are
heated to kill harmful bacteria that may be present. This is why
pasteurization is an accepted organic process and why consumers can find
many pasteurized organic juice products on the market. The gruit juices
involved in the recent incident were not pasteurized.
Contamination by E. coli bacteria can come from contact with fecal material
which is not subsequently removed by complete washing. This is quite
different from the use of manure as a fertilizer on cropland, a practice
widely followed in all agriculture, including organic farming.
Retzloff cited the 1990 Organic Foods Production Act, which established the
rules for organic production and is administered by the United States
Department of Agriculture. The Act prohibits the application of raw manure
to croplands from which crops intended for human consumption will be
harvested within 60 days, and further recommends a longer period if soil or
other conditions warrant. No other agricultural regulation imposes such
strict control on the use or manure.
The organic industry has long advised growers to use compost rather than
raw manure. Ciompost is both more effective and, because it is produced by
the high-heat aerobic digestion of bacteria in manure, is safer.
Additionally, organic agricultural systems protect the health of the
environment and farm workers by eliminating the use of potentially harmful
pertroleum-based fertilizers and toxic, persistent pesticides.
"Food borne illnesses are a threat to the food supply. We must do
everything we can to assure the safety and cleanliness of our products,
whether fresh or process. We want to emphasize that organic products are
not more nor less susceptible to this kind of contamination than are foods
produced by non-organic methers," Retzloff concluded.
The Organic Trade Association represents the organic products industry in
the U.S. and Canada. Its members include growers, shippers, processors,
certifiers, farmers' association, distributors, consultant and retailers.
Founded in 1985, OTA's goal is to encourage global sustainability through
promoting and protecting the growth of diverse organic trade.
California Certified Organic Farmers