When Organic Food Gets Contaminated

Just because something's organic doesn't mean that it can't suffer from long supply chain problems

Organic food can get contaminated as well.
Organic brown rice syrup was recalled. (Photo by: David Owens)

January 31, 2021

Organic brown rice syrup is better for you than sugar—unless, of course, it’s laced with arsenic.

Researchers from Dartmouth University say they found dangerous levels of arsenic in foods featuring organic brown rice syrup, including a number of infant formulas. One brand of formula they tested “had a total arsenic concentration level up to six times the U.S. federal limit,” Bloomberg reports. The syrup is also found in certain cereals and energy bars, among other products.

A few weeks back, Jones Seasoning Blends voluntarily recalled a number of its organic spice blends sold in California, Minnesota and Washington State due to potential salmonella poisoning of its organic celery seeds.

Safeway and the grocery companies it owns issued a similar recall in December 2011: after a routine check, its O Organics Organic Celery Seeds were found to be potentially contaminated as well, though no illnesses have been reported as of this writing.

The American food supply has seen its share of tainted produce in recent years, from lettuce to spinach to tomatoes; part of the problem is that as the supply chain becomes more lengthy and elaborate, contamination by salmonella and other dangerous organisms has more opportunities to occur.

Most purchasers of organic foods feel safer because the growing methods are natural and sustainable, and believe there are generally fewer chemicals used in processing and packaging. Unfortunately, an organic label is not a guarantee of uncontaminated food. Perhaps the best bet is is to buy food that’s both organic and locally grown—the fewer steps in the supply chain, the better, not only for environment but for food safety, too.

Image by David Owens.