Food safety is a hot topic in the news these days. And with good reason. Food recalls, such as the one that recently took place in the conventional egg industry, have dominated news headlines. At the same time, Congress has been working to pass a bill to improve the safety of the American food supply. Together, these actions have given us all reason to think twice about the safety of the food we eat.
The question is, what is safe food and where is the best place to turn to find it?
What is safe food?
When most of us think about food safety, we think about microbial contamination and exposure to undeclared allergens. When we think about safe food, though, we define it according to a broader set of criteria. Safe food is food that is made without the use of toxic pesticides and fertilizers, synthetic growth hormones, antibiotics, artificial ingredients, GMOs, and irradiation. Safe food is also food that complies with local, state and federal food safety and health standards.
Where should you turn to find safe food?
Go organic! Although organic is not a food safety claim, many of the principles of the organic system are also the foundation of sound food safety practices. For example: organic requirements mandate:
• All organic farmers and processors comply with local, state and federal food safety and health standards
• All organic farmers and processors to be registered with USDA
• Independent third-party certification
• Announced and unannounced on-site inspections
• Audit trails to ensure traceability from farm to your family
• Rigorous review of materials, processes and methods used in organic production and processing
To further support and improve food safety, the organic system requires:
• Production and processing without the use of toxic and persistent pesticides and chemical fertilizers and sewage sludge.
• Adherence to strict rules around compost creation and application
• Maintenance or improvement of soil and water quality
• Adherence to strict rules around manure application
• The use of appropriate food safety practices, such as pasteurization and equipment sanitation
• Livestock must be given access to the outdoors and other healthy living conditions
• Livestock may not be fed animal by-products, adding a layer of protection against the possibility of transmission of certain diseases.
• Livestock may not be treated with antibiotics, meaning that they do not increase the risk of creating antibiotic resistant bacteria.
As you think about what to feed your family, remember: the organic system does more than meet basic food safety standards. It goes beyond them to ensure that the organic products you buy are produced and processed in a transparent manner you and your family can trust.