Stonyfield Organic’s parent company says it may have been poisoning babies for more than a decade

Lactalis, the second largest dairy company in the world, has recently been subject to a massive recall due to a salmonella outbreak. The recall impacts their baby formula, including their organic Milumel Bio 1. Since December at least 36 infants have been infected. But according to New Food Magazine the outbreak may have gone back much furthur:

Last week, it came to light that the same exact strain of salmonella had caused sickness in nearly 150 children in 2005, a year before the Craon site, which has been identified as the source of last year’s outbreak, came in to Lactalis’ hands. Between 2006 and 2016, the same strain has been found to have caused 26 more infections.
Speaking in Les Échos, Mr Besnier [Lactalis’ CEO] said he could not rule out “the possibility that babies consumed tainted milk over this period”.

In the United States Lactalis is well known for purchasing Stonyfield Organic last year, a company that has its own share of controversy this month.

Stonyfield Organic recently faced heavy criticism for its use of children in an ad spreading misinformation about biotechnology. As Kavin Senapathy reported in Forbes, Gary Hirshberg, co-founder, Chief Organic Optimist, and chairman of Stonyfield’s advisory board doubled down by calling such critics “trolls”.

When asked why Stonyfield dubbed critics “trolls,” Hirshberg said, “we have access to a database of fake names that have been repeatedly used to attack companies and groups who advocate for GMO labeling. We have matched up many of the posted comments and found a positive correlation to this list. This is an old story and consumers need to know that many who pose as interested consumers are in fact not.” The methodologies used to compile this database of “fake names,” and where the list is hosted, are unclear.

Stonyfield’s attempt to raise doubt about the overwhelming scientific consensus that GMOs are no riskier than any other crop is just one more marketing attempt by the organic industry to insinuate their products are in some way healthier. A claim that lacks any support by the scientific community.

In fact some evidence may suggest that “organic produce is more susceptible to fecal contamination”, a frequent source of E. coli bacteria.

One major concern with the organic label is what is known as a “health halo” effect, where consumers believe they are buying something healthier. According to Science Daily:

As part of her master’s research, Lee asked whether the “health halo” surrounding organic foods would lead people to automatically perceive them as tastier or lower in calories. She tested this question by conducting a double-blind, controlled trial in which she asked 144 subjects at the local mall to compare what they thought were conventionally and organically produced chocolate sandwich cookies, plain yogurt, and potato chips. All of the products, however, were actually of the organic variety — they were just labeled as being “regular” or “organic.” Participants were then asked to rate each food for 10 different attributes (e.g., overall taste, perception of fat content) using a scale from 1 to 9. She also asked them to estimate the number of calories in each food item and how much they would be willing to pay.
As part of the scientific program of the American Society for Nutrition annual meeting, results from this study will be presented on April 10 at the Experimental Biology 2011 meeting.
Confirming Lee’s health halo hypothesis, the subjects reported preferring almost all of the taste characteristics of the organically-labeled foods, even though they were actually identical to their conventionally-labeled counterparts. The foods labeled “organic” were also perceived to be significantly lower in calories and evoked a higher price tag. In addition, foods with the “organic” label were perceived as being lower in fat and higher in fiber. Overall, organically-labeled chips and cookies were considered to be more nutritious than their “non-organic” counterparts.

Large corporations, such as Lactalis, have certainly taken notice. Pepsi CEO admitted that consumers are “willing to go to organic non-GMO products even if it has high salt, high sugar, high fat”.

It is still unknown exactly how the outbreak started in a drying tower at their Craon facility in France. But their leader has often bragged about being the “leader of organic milk in France for more than twenty years”. Their dairy product web page also insinuates health benefits, stating that one of the important reasons to consume organic foods is “consumers’ concern over the food safety of industrial products”.

An insinuation that Lactalis may want to rethink.

The organization Stop Food Borne Illness is aware of the food safety myths surrounding organic agriculture and wants consumers to be aware that “there is no federally-indicated distinction between organic and non-organic foods in terms of quality, appearance, or microbiological safety”.

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