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Ask Tufts Experts December 2011 Issue

Q: Are organic meats safer in regard to foodborne diseases such as salmonella?

Answer :  When it comes to livestock, the USDA organic seal verifies that producers met animal health and welfare standards, did not use antibiotics or growth hormones, used 100% organic feed, and provided animals with access to the outdoors. The agency’s Food Safety and Inspection Service states that it “does not know of any valid scientific information that shows that any specific type of chicken has more or less salmonella bacteria than other poultry.” A 2011 study published in the journal Foodborne Pathogens and Diseases, however, did find less salmonella in organic chicken than in conventionally raised poultry.

But an “organic” (or “natural”) label is no guarantee of safety against foodborne pathogens, warns Simin Nikbin Meydani, DVM, PhD, director of Tufts’ Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging and its Nutritional Immunology Laboratory. She says, “The safety will depend on how it is handled after the animal is killed”—including in your kitchen.

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