Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Myth: To protect myself from foodborne illness caused by fresh produce, I can switch to local or organic and I won’t get sick.

Answer: BUSTED!

Any fruit or vegetable (local, organic or conventional) can become unsafe if it comes in contact with disease-causing bacteria on its way to your table. Contamination can be caused by many factors including worker hygiene and sanitation practices during production, harvesting, sorting, packing and transport; the source and quality of water; and solid animal waste from wild, domesticated or farm animals.

People often buy organic or local produce to avoid some pesticides, support smaller farms, and support farming practices that are less harmful to the environment. These are all valid reasons, but several studies have shown organic or local produce won’t necessarily protect you from foodborne illness, a common misconception.

woman washing broccoli in kitchen sink
You can take steps to protect yourself from foodborne illness by washing all produce before eating and avoiding cross-contamination by thoroughly washing your hands.

Click here for more information on eating local in Missouri.

Contributor: Mary Wissmann, MS, RD, LD, Nutrition and Health Education Specialist, University of Missouri Extension,, 314-615-2911

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