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Organic foods may be more prone to contamination, studies reveal
If youre spending an extra dollar or two in the organic section at your local supermarket, you might want to take pause. - photo by Jessica Ivins
If youre spending an extra dollar or two in the organic section at your local supermarket, you might want to take pause.

While organic foods are often praised for being cleaner, healthier and purer, the past couple of years have brought a spike in recalls on organics due to bacterial contaminations, Yahoo Health reports.

A new report by Stericyle reveals that 7 percent of all food recalls this year have been organic. Thats compared to 1 percent of total food recalls in 2012 and 2013. Stericyle reviewed FDA and USDA data to identify the jump, Yahoo reports.

So why the drastic rise? Experts point to a multitude of potential culprits, but the most likely is that organic food is in higher demand than ever before. Thus, farms that were once small and controlled are now growing into so-called super-farms to meet consumer demand.

If that produce grown at large farms gets contaminated, its spread all over the country, said Lawrence Goodridge, director of the Food Safety & Quality program at McGill University.

Additionally, several recent studies have pointed to the idea that organically grown foods are actually more sensitive to bacterial contamination. In one particular study this year, researchers found that organic vegetables sold at California farmers markets were two times as likely to be contaminated with salmonella than vegetables grown at conventional farms, Yahoo reports.

Organic farming utilizes manure as fertilizer, but if that manure is composted correctly, there shouldnt be any issues or dangers. The problem comes when fertilizer is improperly composted, Goodridge says.

There is a risk that bacteria will be spread to the produce, he told Yahoo Health. Many people who grow produce in their backyards or on small, mom-and-pop farms may not compost manure properly. Theyre essentially spreading raw manure onto that produce. Thats what can lead to contamination.

Another study looked into manure aging techniques, and found that produce fertilized using manure that had been aged for more than a year tended to carry fewer contaminants. Meanwhile, produce grown with manure that had been aged just 6 to 12 months was 19 times more likely to be contaminated with E. coli.

Experts say its important to note that while organic food isnt bad for you, you shouldnt necessarily chose to purchase it if your main motivation is food safety. And no matter what type of produce you buy, make sure to wash it thoroughly before consumption.

Goodridge recommends cooking, grilling or roasting produce when possible, since thats the most effective way to kill off bacteria. He also told Yahoo Health that consumers would do best to avoid pre-cut produce in grocery stores, since the more a food is handled, the more likely it is to be contaminated.