Pundit’s Mailbag — Transitional Answers
Jim Prevor’s Perishable Pundit, December 21, 2006
We recently ran two letters, first, a letter from Jeff Hitchcock of Boggiatto Produce pointing out that the field implicated in the spinach/E. coli outbreak was being farmed organically and marketed as conventional due to its transitional status (farms converting from conventionally grown to organic must go through a three-year transition to make sure the soil is free of synthetic pesticides, etc.) Then we ran a letter from Bob Sanderson of Jonathan’s Sprouts questioning the implication of this.
Today we received another letter on this subject:
We appreciate Samantha writing to help the industry understand this issue better. We last spoke with Samantha as part of our Pundit Special Science Report in which she detailed the new product testing regimen that Natural Selection Foods instituted after the recent spinach/E. coli outbreak. Today she also gives valuable information:
It is vital to remember that, to date, nothing has been found on any spinach field. That makes everything said on the subject conjecture.
She also does confirm that the field most proximate to the cow fecal matter that was found to be matching the E. coli 0157:H7 was being farmed organically.
She also does state that: “…no raw or composted manure was used on this field and, on the whole, our growers are not using it in the cultivation of organic fields.”
This last point strikes the Pundit as crucial for regulatory and consumer attitudes toward organic produce. We would advise Natural Selection Foods to be prepared to release audit reports and other material to back this up.
And, the great news in Samantha’s letter is that contrary to popular perception, its organic growers are not utilizing manure, raw or composted.
Which raises the obvious question: If even organic growers don’t need to use it, why in the world is the produce industry going to bat for this unappealing practice?
No consumer likes the image of their produce growing in manure. Surely we can just ban it on spinach and leafy greens without great consequence for the industry… and gain a lot of consumer and regulatory goodwill while doing it.