Organic Composts May Help Farmers Prevent Food-Borne Disease Outbreaks

Food-borne disease outbreaks linked to the consumption of fresh produce have caused farmers to re-evaluate their practices. A recent analysis of a 27-year experiment comparing organic and conventional soil management indicates that animal-based composts do not promote pathogen survival and may even promote bacterial communities that suppress pathogens.

The study, which is published in the Journal of Applied Microbiology, comes following other research documenting a higher prevalence of food-borne pathogens in fields fertilised with raw animal manure compared with conventional fertilisers.

‘Our findings suggest that abandoning animal-based composts should be reconsidered, both because of the known benefits of composts for soil health and because it may be possible to apply amendments so that food safety risks are mitigated rather than exacerbated,’ said lead author, Naresh Devarajan, PhD, of the University of California, Davis.