Local, organic foods not always safer

October 25, 2011 - 5:25 PM

WASHINGTON (AP) — Foods produced at smaller farms or labeled "local," ''organic" or "natural" may appear safer to shoppers nervous about foodborne illness. But a small outbreak of salmonella in organic eggs from Minnesota shows that no food is immune to contamination.

The government has traditionally focused on safety at large food operations because they reach the most people. Recent outbreaks in cantaloupe, ground turkey, eggs and peanuts have started at large farms or plants and sickened thousands of people across the country.

But as sales for foods produced at smaller operations have grown, a new set of food safety challenges has emerged. Small farms have been exempted from food safety laws as conservatives, farmers and food-lovers have worried about too much government intervention and regulators have struggled with tight budgets.