There is a lot of mystery surrounding organic food; we’re told it’s better for us, and we know it costs more, but the kind of food processing solutions used to ensure it stays safe to eat are seldom touched on. To remove some of the ambiguity from this matter, the following FAQ is being provided:
Is organic food higher lower or higher in pathogens than conventionally produced food?
Some people assume that organic foods will be lower in pathogens compared to traditionally produced foods as they are grown in a “healthier” manner, whereas others assume organic foods will be higher in pathogens as fewer chemicals are used in their production. Neither is really true as a general rule (with the possible exception of grass-fed chicken and beef, which may contain less e. coli and salmonella bacteria, respectively); pathogens don’t discriminate between organic and conventional foods, and both rely on adequate food processing solutions to remain safe to eat. Therefore, organic produce processors are required to comply with the same food safety standards and regulations any other food processor is required to comply with.
Is organic food processed differently than conventional food?
Yes and no; organic food relies on the same basic food processing solutions that conventional food relies on in order to remain free of pathogens and safe to consume, but certain chemicals which may be used on conventional foods may not be used when processing organic foods.
Wait—Does that mean organic food contains chemicals?
Yes; while organic food is typically grown without the use of most chemicals, certain chemicals must be used when processing all types of food in order to ensure safety. Which chemicals are allowed for use with organic food may vary depending on which country you live in, but generally four types of chemicals are allowed for use as sanitizers: sodium chlorite solution (made with citric acid, the same acid found in lemon juice), chlorine materials (calcium hypochlorite, chlorine dioxide, and sodium hypochlorite), ozone, and peroxyacetic acid. Other chemicals used on conventional foods are forbidden, however, such as quaternary ammonium sanitizers (which are very common in the processing of conventional food).
The chemicals which are allowed when cleaning food processing facilities also differ when processing organic foods; harsh chemical cleaning products are generally not permitted when sanitising these facilities.
How do I avoid chemicals in my food altogether?
It’s important not to villainise chemicals completely; everything is made up of chemicals, after all, and not all chemicals are inherently harmful to the human body. If you are concerned about the chemicals used in organic food processing, however, your best bet is to avoid organic food sold at large supermarkets and instead look for locally-made, small-batch items. Local farms and bakeries often hand-make and sell their own organic foods in small batches, relying on only the most traditional and basic of processing techniques (generally nothing you wouldn’t employ on your own kitchen).
See www.perrettandkane.com/food-machinery/ for more info on Food Processing Solutions.