15 May 2000
E coli lurks in US organic food

ORGANIC foods in the USA have been found to contain up to 100 times higher levels of the potentially fatal E coli bug than conventional produce, reports The Daily Mail.

US scientists discovered found that non-organic lettuce had 1000 E coli cells per gram, but the organic alternative had 100,000.

Professor Michael Doyle, who led the University of Georgia team said: “Our research raises questions about the safety of organic produce.

“We certainly need to look more closely at this.”

Manure which has not been composted long enough to kill bacteria can spread E coli to organic crops.

Scientists say problems arise where there is a breakdown in the inspections system and people cut corners, enabling the bug to get through.

While strict regulations on the use of manure in British organic farming reduce the risk of E coli, some scientists are unconvinced this eliminates it altogether

E coli expert Professor Hugh Pennington, who has expressed doubts in the past, told the Mail was concerned that the bug could spread on organic food.

“It is not healthier than normal mass-produced food, and in many cases in is far unhealthier,” claimed Prof Pennington.

But Patrick Holden, director of the Soil Association, which monitors organic farms, said organic produce was less prone to disease than conventional produce.

“Organic farming standards are based on sound science and best farming practice,” insisted Mr Holden.

Meanwhile, the Mail reports that supermarket chain Tesco withdrew organic mushrooms from sale over the weekend after E coli 0157 was found in one pack.

Further tests showed it was a harmless variant of the disease.