Sustainability | Free Full-Text | Is Organic Food Becoming Less Safe? A Longitudinal Analysis of Conventional and Organic Product Recalls

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Organic products are often portrayed as a healthy alternative—grown in a sustainable way, often locally and subject to external certification scrutiny. However, recent high-profile cases of contaminated organic food have raised questions about the risks associated with organic produce: is organic produce becoming less safe and more risky? The context for this investigation is in the realm of food product recalls. Based on 2010–2017 panel data from the US on food product recalls (with 2721 observations), this paper compares the volume of recalls (adjusted for the growth of sales) between conventional and organic food. This paper further addresses two food-related risks: design risk (a risk that is present in the development of food; such as the use of unapproved ingredients or the omission of some ingredients on the food label) and process risk (a risk within the supply chain, such as the contamination of food products with salmonella or E. coli). Further comparison is drawn based on food product type (here the paper distinguishes between processed and unprocessed food). The paper demonstrates that organic products are becoming less safe and that organic products are recalled at a higher rate. In comparison to conventional produce, organic produce is more prone to process risk and far less to design risk. Similar conclusions are reached even when the organic produce is analysed from a product type perspective.
conventional food; organic food; supply chains; risk; product recalls
conventional food; organic food; supply chains; risk; product recalls

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