Organic Food Recalls Increasing Due To Bacterial Contamination: Report

The number of organic food recalls has increased significantly in recent years, due to bacterial contamination and undeclared allergens, according to a new report. 

Biohazard and waste disposal company, Stericycle, released a report on August 20, indicating that the demand for healthier organic food products has driven an increase in organic food product recalls over the last several years.

The number of recalls involving organic foods reached a record high this year, accounting for seven percent of all food units recalled, the report notes.

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Organic products are considered by some to be healthier than food typically sold in stores, because they are produced without the use of pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, genetically modified organisms, or ionizing radiation. Organic meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products are processed without the use of antibiotics or growth hormones fed to the animals. However, this may make the food more susceptible to natural bacterial contaminates that are not fought off by the use of inorganic practices, potentially increasing the risk of food poisoning.

Stericycle’s analysis was conducted using the last several years of food recall data collected by the FDA. Beginning in 2012, the data indicates organic food recalls have risen steadily since 2012 and 2013, when the products accounted for only one percent of all food recalls. Organic foods accounted for a total of two percent of food recalls in 2014, and data from this year suggests organic food recalls are on track to represent seven percent of all food products recalled for contaminants and mislabeled allergens.

The recent data review showed a majority of the organic food recalls have been driven by bacterial contamination.  Vice President of Stericycle, Kevin Pollack, states that since 2012, organic recalls have been driven by bacterial contamination such as E.coli, salmonella, listeria, hepatitis A, and other potentially fatal infections. Infections like E. coli, salmonella, and listeria greatly impact the food market every year, causing hundreds of fatalities and millions of illnesses, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Many of the bacterial infections that cause food recalls vary in severity and impact certain age ranges differently. Salmonella, E.coli, and listeria infections usually cause flu-like symptoms in healthy individuals but can be more severe to those with weakened immune systems such as the elderly, and especially for pregnant women who have can suffer miscarriages and stillbirths due to the infections.

Lobbyists for the organic food industry have expressed dismay at the Stericycle report, saying it is mischaracterizing a natural result of the increasing popularity of organic foods and how much they are represented in the marketplace.

Stericycle officials say the report was intended to bring awareness to customers who prefer to use organic products but may not be aware of the potential dangers. Company officials explained that even though a product is deemed healthier due to its organic practices, it may not be free from common bacterial infections that threaten all of today’s food market.

Stericycle is a biohazard waste disposal company and is recognized as one of the industry’s most trusted environmental and safety leaders. Stericycle is used by many of the federal health agencies to collect harmful products that have been recalled for bacterial contaminations and various other defect and hazardous reasons.

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