Organic composts may help farmers prevent foodborne disease outbreaks

A 27-year experiment comparing organic and conventional soil management methods has revealed insights into the prevention of foodborne disease outbreaks associated with fresh produce. The study, published in the Journal of Applied Microbiology, challenges the belief that animal-based composts could increase pathogen survival in agricultural settings.

Contrary to previous research that indicated a higher presence of foodborne pathogens in fields using raw animal manure as fertilizer, this analysis found that animal-based composts may not only be safe but also beneficial. The study suggests that these composts might promote bacterial communities in the soil that can suppress pathogens, potentially reducing food-safety risks.

Lead author Dr. Naresh Devarajan from the University of California, Davis, believes that the practice of avoiding animal-based composts should be reconsidered. This shift in perspective is based on the potential benefits of composts for soil health and the possibility of applying amendments to minimize food-safety risks rather than exacerbating them.

In light of the ongoing concerns about foodborne illnesses linked to fresh produce, this research offers a new perspective on soil management practices that could improve food safety while maintaining soil health.

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