That Avery article is in American Outlook, Fall 1998. (It's also online at
"The Hidden Dangers of Organic Food" pages 19-22. It's likely the article that
your "Friend" was talking about.
The following quotes were taken directly from the article online. each quote is
followed by comments from me. Quotes are always in quotation marks and
(hopefully) indented. And as I've said, these come from the above article by
Dennis Avery, and are quoted from online sources. (I hope
"Organic food is more dangerous than conventionally grown produce because organic
animal manure as the major source of fertilizer for their food crops. Animal
manure is the biggest
reservoir of these nasty bacteria that are afflicting and killing so many
" The new reality is quite sobering. Organic and "natural" food
producers supply only about 1 percent
of the nation’s food, but the Centers for Disease Control have traced
approximately 8 percent of the
confirmed E. coli 0157 cases to such foods. Consumer Reports recently
found much higher levels
of salmonella on free-range chickens than on conventionally raised
ones. Many other organic foods
also pose higher salmonella risks than "supermarket" foods. To be
sure, most strains of salmonella
are mild and are easily killed by cooking one’s food adequately. But
the new salmonella, S.
typhimurium, is far stronger than other varieties. Infection often
proves fatal. The CDC estimates
that there are up to four million cases of salmonella poisoning per
year in the U.S., and it has
identified one-fourth of the culture-confirmed cases as the more
virulent S. typhimurium."
This appears to state that one is eight times more likely to get food poisoning
from organic foods. What is really said is that 92% of E. coli food-borne
illness is not related to organic foods, and that 99% of our food in the US is
conventionally produced. I don't think I'll be eating anymore steak tartar!
The article implies that the new S. typhimurium is less likely to be killed by
heating, when the bacterium simply produces more toxin than other strains. By
the way, in the United States, Salmonella spp. are found on 37% of chicken from
supermarkets, 55% of pet snakes, and 36% of pet lizards (Foodborne Bacterial
Pathogens, M. P. Boyle, ed. Marcel Dekker, Inc., 796 pp).
"To be sure, it is an overstatement to say, as one physician recently
did, that organic food is "grown
in animal manure." Few organic farmers actually put fresh manure on
their crops. Most of them
compost the manure for several weeks before using it on their crops.
But the composting guidelines
have been fuzzy and are probably inadequate. A common rule of thumb is
to compost for two
months at 130 degrees F. or better. The bad news is that a study by
Dr. Dean Cliver of the University
of California at Davis found that the deadly new E. coli 0157 bacteria
can live at least seventy days
in a compost pile—and it probably takes an extended period at
160-degree heat to kill it."
This may be true, but I can't find the exact reference that Avery is quoting
here. And, although I'm not an expert on the subject, I highly doubt that E.
coli would be able to survive these temps too long. Avery states that E. coli
O157:H7 can survive up to 70 days in a compost pile. He didn't say _Where_ in the
pile that the organism could survive. Yes, it could survive on the outside of
the pile, but wouldn't thrive in the environment. Other ref's by Cliver point to
degradation of E. coli O157:H7 and Salmonella tiphimurium 2 days to 5 weeks in
temps at 4, 20, and 37 degrees C (much lower than the 71 degrees C that Avery
used) (in 1999 FEMS Microbiology Letters 178:251-257). Other E. coli strains
have also been shown not to last long in soil and water samples (on the order of
days, Bogosian 1996, Appl. Env. Micro. 62:4114-4120). However, I'd check with
Dr. Cliver, himself before believing what Dennis Avery wrote about what he
wrote. Avery has a way of turning results around in such a way that they say
what he needs them to say.
"The real surprise is that nobody is telling the public about the new
dangers from organic food, or
trying to persuade organic farmers to reduce these risks. Activist
groups, government, and the
press—all of which have shown no reluctance to organize crusades about
matters such as global
warming, tobacco addiction, and the use of pesticides—are allowing
organic farmers to endanger
their customers without any publicity whatever. A press corps eager to
find headline-worthy dangers
would long ago have exposed any other farmers guilty of so blatantly
and unnecessarily endangering
the public. And other farmers would certainly have been condemned, or
even closed down, by
This article was quoted in the Wall street Journal on 8 December 1998 (I think).
I wonder when Dennis Avery will hear about our little SANET group!
Anyway. . .I have some additional articles about the fate of E. coli in soils and
water. there are also tests that can be run to determine what the likely source
of contamination is. Check with the local health dept. And give Dr. Cliver a
call. I know when I talked to Dr. Paul Mead (of the CDC, misquoted in the same
article) he was interested to know about the Avery Article. He had heard
something about the CDC saying organic food way eight times more likely to cause
food poisoning, and knew he had spoken to Dennis Avery.
-- Russ Bulluck Ph.D. Candidate Department of Plant Pathology North Carolina State University PO Box 7616 Raleigh, NC 27695-7616
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ The soil population is so complex that it manifestly cannot be dealt with as a whole with any detail by any one person, and at the same time it plays so important a part in the soil economy that it must be studied. --Sir E. John Russell The Micro-organisms of the Soil, 1923 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
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