News broke last week that Minnesota health officials are investigating cases of salmonella poisoning linked to organic eggs. At least six people, both children and adults, became ill between Aug. 12 and Sept. 24, after consuming the organic eggs purchased at grocery stores. Three were hospitalized but have recovered.
The Department of Agriculture said the contaminated eggs were traced to the Larry Schultz Organic Farm of Owatonna, where testing confirmed the presence of salmonella bacteria. The farm has issued a voluntary recall of the eggs and is cooperating with the Minnesota agriculture probe.
This news comes just weeks after research was published stating that about 1 in 5 American’s are at a high risk of foodborne illness. And this summer the CDC released numbers showing an increase in illnesses caused by Salmonella.
It is a good thing that food safety is becoming more important to consumers, but there are some that have the misconception that organic food means safer food. The fact is organically grown or organically produced foods have not been proven to be safer than those items grown by commercial farms. The USDA organic label refers to the fact that organic produce are grown without the use of pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, genetically modified organisms, or ionizing radiation. Animals that produce organic meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products do not take antibiotics or growth hormones.
This isn’t the first time organic eggs have been recalled. In 2009 Kirkland brand organic brown eggs were recalled and recently 92 people were stricken with salmonella linked to chicks bought for backyard farms. Salmonella is now typically found on the inside of the shell of the egg, so that means it originates in the hen. Hens live on farms, and basic microbiology will tell you that there are plenty of ways a farm animal can pick up a pathogen that is harmless to them but can cause illness in humans.
Doug Powell, the writer of BarfBlog puts it best, “Dangerous bugs really don’t care about size or politics: local or global, conventional or organic, big or small, producers and others in the farm-to-fork food safety system either know about dangerous microorganisms and take steps to control them – or they don’t.”
All of the news stories about the recent organic egg recall state that to be safe you should thoroughly cook your eggs. In case you were wondering that means, you must cook your eggs until they are hard or have no liquid left in them, so no runny yolks, or even soft scrambled. However, even if you fully cook your eggs there is still the risk of cross contamination in your kitchen. Maybe it is time to make the Safest Choice and purchase our pasteurized eggs. Learn more about our gentle water-bath process here.