Organic foods involve a lot of politics. Fruits, meats and vegetables produced through chemical- and pesticide-free farming are very popular. Consumers prefer these options to traditional food items because they believe the products are healthier and better for the environment.
Given the relatively new level of demand for organic-labeled products, industry experts are still debating the degree of health benefits or eco-friendly production procedures associated with the items, according to the Bloomberg View. For example, organic farming doesn't rely on pesticides that damage ecosystems, but they produce more manure that raises carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere.
Another issue that's plaguing organic foods is the increased levels of contamination.
Contaminated Organic Products are on the Rise
The New York Times shared the results of a Stericycle report - which used information from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Department of Agriculture - that found organic merchandise accounted for 7 percent of all recalled food in 2015. In 2013, this type of product only represented 1 percent of food recalls. Almost 90 percent of organic recalls from 2012 to 2015 were due to bacterial contamination.
Experts credit this drastic increase to a variety of factors. First of all, the Organic Trade Association said a raise in organic representation in any consumer findings should not surprise anyone because of the increased demand for the items. There are more recalls because companies produce more organic foods overall. Second, Food safety procedures and inventory management strategies have improved in recent years and contamination detection is more likely. An increase in reporting is a good sign, as it indicates regulators and companies recalled additional foods before they were used by consumers.
Possible Problems with Organic Products
As organic products grow in popularity, industry professionals take a closer look at their production procedures.
Science 2.0, a modern science blog, suggested organic foods are not held to the same standards as other products. Government agencies like the National Organic Standards Board create guidelines for organic labeling. Science 2.0 argues organizations with a vested interest in organic success don't perform regular food quality control processes like surprise spot testing. Customers are also less stringent about preparing organic foods. Science 2.0 argues shoppers who buy fruits advertised as pesticide-free may not feel the need to wash them before consumption.
A 2013 joint study conducted by the U.S. Western Institute for Food Safety and Security and Chinese Department of Food Science and Engineering examined foods sold at a California farmers market. The study discovered items produced through organic farming practices were twice as likely to contain salmonella contamination as traditionally grown products.
One possible problem is organic farming mostly uses manure as fertilizer. If the manure is properly composted by farmers there is very little threat of contamination. Aging manure for over a year before using it in fertilizer severely decreases the possible health risks. Using uncomposted, fresh manure, however, is dangerous.
Automated Data Collection for Organic Products
Companies offering organic products have to account for every part of the production process. Farming practices, distribution paths, storage procedures and product delivery must all be visible to business managers.
As organic products grow in popularity, it can be difficult to keep up with expanding markets. Companies must acquire equipment that facilitates efficient and quick production and inventory management. Mobile data collection devices allow every employee to report information using automated procedures. The centralized software system should display production materials, employee actions and merchandise movement.
The RFgen white paper "The Food Traceability Survival Guide" said automated data collection is very helpful to providing complete inventory records after the company or government official detects contamination. Data collection mobile devices create real-time accounts of product movements so companies can share the information with customers and regulators. Accurate information is essential to keeping the public healthy and putting production back to work.