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June 11, 2008


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I am a supporter of organic products and buy items on the dirty dozen list all the time and others whenever they are affordable.

I heard that the salmonella probably came from bird poop, which means that organic farming would not have made a difference - aside from the fact that it was obviously a very large farm.

I am interested to hear your thoughts on this?


Hi Missy,
Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

As I understand it, chicken poop can indeed carry salmonella bacteria (just like cow manure can contain e. coli). And yes, it would be very common for organic farmers to use chicken manure as a fertilizer.

However, raw chicken manure is not just thrown onto a field as is. When used properly, any type of manure would be composted for at least 6 months before being applied to a garden plot or field, which would help kill off bacteria (composting can reach temperatures as high as 170 degrees F). In fact, it is a requirement of organic certification that manure used be composted first, and that manure be applied a certain number of days before harvest time. So by buying organic vegetables, you are trusting that the farm is following the certification guidelines, since they have passed their inspections. Also, organic farmers tend to be more dedicated to the health of the land and the health of their crops, and are more careful with the methods and materials they use. Their bottom line (usually) is not just to make money at any cost. They have gone to great lengths and expense to commit to healthy and sustainable farming practices.

As far as I have found, none of the people who got sick reported eating organically-grown tomatoes. The problem is much more likely to be from a farm that is NOT organic, and not following strict guidelines and having regular inspections. Since it seems that there is a wide distribution of cases, I think contaminated irrigation water would be a likely source. Perhaps a farm that either has or sits right next to a "factory farm", that is producing massive amounts of manure in unhealthy conditions, had its water source contaminated.

Finally, buying from small, local farmers (preferably organic) keeps you out of the range of this outbreak. It's certainly a large producer with wide distribution, rather than multiple small farms. Hope that helps! I'd love to hear any other thoughts you have!

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