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Posted at 07:00 AM ET, 06/14/2011

Is organic produce safer?

German officials say that the recent deadly outbreak of E. coli infection in Europe was caused by contaminated sprouts grown at a farm in Lower Saxony.

An organic farm, that is.

By pure coincidence, just as that news was settling in, the Environmental Working Group issued Monday its updated “Dirty Dozen ” list of conventionally farmed fruits and vegetables that carry the biggest pesticide loads. This year, apples top the list of high-pesticide produce, displacing celery, while onions and corn lead the list of the “Clean 15,” with hardly any pesticides at all.

The EWG encourages people to eat their fruits and veggies, noting that “the health benefits of a diet rich in fruits and vegetables outweigh the risks of pesticide exposure.” But the group urges folks to consult the list when choosing produce, so as to ingest as little pesticide residue as possible. The foods listed among the Dirty Dozen, EWG suggests, are ones you should try hardest to seek organic versions of.

Pesticides aside, current events call into question the notion that organic food is inherently safer to eat than conventionally farmed food. One kind can just as easily be infected with pathogens such as E. coli as another.

And sprouts are notoriously hard to keep from contamination, whether they’re conventionally farmed or not.

Does Europe’s E. coli outbreak alter your feelings about organic produce?

By  |  07:00 AM ET, 06/14/2011

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