GL: Has the recent E. coli outbreak in Europe had any impact on your farm or farming methods (not using pesticides)?
MG: No. In fact, the European outbreak seems to be attributed to a non–O157 form of E. coli, and in our program, we test for non–O157 pathogens.
GL: What advice would you give people who are concerned about eating organic produce for fear of being more susceptible to E. coli and other bacteria?
MG: I would say that organic simply is no more susceptible to foodborne contamination than food produced with chemicals. Even the U.S. Food & Drug Administration has said it has no data showing any higher or lesser risk for adulteration with foodborne pathogens for growing products using organic versus conventional farming techniques. I think this concern may arise out of the thought that organic farmers may be using manure. What many people don’t know is that the use of manure is specifically regulated in certified organic operations so that it must be composted to a certain heat for a certain length of time to kill pathogens.
But I certainly understand overall concern for safer food. That’s why we grow food organically and that’s why we have such a rigorous food–safety program. From the very first days of Earthbound Farm, we’ve been committed to growing food without toxic and persistent chemicals, and it’s becoming increasingly clear that some of these chemicals have harmful effects. That’s an important factor in choosing safer food.
If you add the value of keeping chemicals out of our food supply with our extremely rigorous food–safety program, I think it’s really a statement about how strongly committed we are to producing the safest food possible. I encourage people to know who’s producing their food and how it’s being produced.
GL: What’s next? Are you branching out into more produce lines? Stores? Packaged goods?
MG: We are in the midst of developing some exciting new product lines that will either complement current lines (such as salad dressings and toppings) or find other ways to use organic fruits and vegetables in delicious and wonderful products. At the end of July, we’ll be rolling out a couple of new products, including Earthbound Farm’s organic triple–washed Mixed Baby Kale. The Environmental Working Group’s “Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides” has kale on its list of the 12 produce items most likely to be contaminated with pesticide residues and an important item to choose organic. All these factors will help make kale, which is intriguing to many, more accessible and approachable.
We’ve also got our organic Power Lunches coming out, which are powerfully delicious, naturally nutrient–dense salad meal kits that are ready–to–eat, and they include such combinations as Blueberry Quinoa Protein Balance, Cranberry Wheat Protein Boost, and Tomatillo Black Bean Protein Energy.