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US Study: Recalls of organic food on rise

There has been a sharp jump in the number of recalls of organic food product, new data shows.

Recalled products accounted for 7 percent of all food units recalled so far this year, compared with 2 percent of those recalled last year, data of the Food and Drug Administration and the Department of Agriculture reveals.

Stericycle, a company that handles recalls for businesses, used the data to compile its quarterly report on recalls. In 2012 and 2013, only 1 percent of total units of food recalled were organic.

Kevin Pollack, a vice-president at Stericycle, said the growing consumer and corporate demand for organic ingredients was at least partly responsible for the increase. “Since 2012, all organic recalls have been driven by bacterial contamination, like salmonella, listeria, and hepatitis A,” he said.

Overall, the amount of food recalled because of suspected bacterial contamination has increased this year, adding to an upward trend in food recalls since 2012.

Now Stericycle predicts a 24 percent increase in the number of food units that will be recalled this year. But the Organic Trade Association said its own analysis of data from the FDA and the Agriculture Department show the problem is less severe.

Organic products accounted for 4.9 percent of recalls, in line with the percentage of organic food sold out of total retail sales of food, he said.

“An overall increase in organic recalls between 2012 and 2015 would not be surprising — not because organic food is less safe, but because of the dramatic increase in organic food sales and purchases,” said Gwendolyn Wyard, senior director of regulatory and technical affairs at the trade group. "Sales of organic food in the US have risen by almost 25 percent just since 2012 as demand for organic increases,” she said.

Food safety mechanisms had increased since 2012, with a corresponding increase in food recalls, she added.
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