Milwaukee woman: Eating organic almost killed her

Wisconsin's Afternoon News

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A Milwaukee woman says that eating organic almost killed her, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention seems to agree.

A few years ago, Nicki Giese decided to go organic.

"I was trying to cleanse my body and just get healthier in general," Giese told me. "It was all about getting my energy back and getting healthier."

She began buying all her vegetables at a local organic co-op.  It was more expensive and more work, but Giese initially was feeling good about things.

"To me it just meant cleaner food and I was feeling great. I felt safer," Giese says.

Things quickly went from safer to scary.  After less than a month, Giese became sick. Really sick. It began with severe cramping and extreme dehydration. It led to unbearable abdominal pain.

Giese recalled, "It was worse than labor pains. It went on for days. I couldn't drive or sit."

Things got so bad that doctors had to use her neck for IV's.  Even morphine wouldn't ease here pain.

When local doctors discovered she had a rare Shiga Toxin Ecoli contamination, the Centers for Disease Control was called in.  The CDC quickly discovered that the bacteria came from an East Coast organic farm.

"Many organic farms pollute more than conventional farms.  These are things we should be concerned about," Doug Smith, the founder of True Nutrition in California, told me recently.

Giese was hospitalized for a week, and a few years later she still suffers from occasional intestinal pain.

"I contracted what I did from an organic farm, from eating organic food that happened to be contaminated, " Giese now says.

There is an implication that eating organic is inherently safer. Many experts, like Smith, now say that simply isn't the case.

Smith says one of the biggest misconceptions is that organic foods are pesticide free.

"The reality is that pesticides are used in organic foods. And those pesticides are not tested.  They can be harmful.  We don't know," he explained.

There is a growing body of scientific work that shows eating organic may make you feel better about the source of your food, but it may not be better for you than conventional produce.

Researchers at Oxford University recently reported that the environmental impact from organic farms can be worse that that of conventional farms.

Giese says she rarely eats organic anymore, but still feels the effects of eating organic years ago.

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