The Washington Post took notice yesterday of a fight brewing between mainstream egg producers and their niche-market “organic” counterparts. It seems that the US Department of Agriculture’s new organic standard awards “organic” labels to egg companies based on where egg-laying hens roam, rather than what they eat. Organic agriculture activists are complaining bitterly at the thought that this might change.

Egg producers, noted the Post, contend that “allowing chickens to roam free will result in outbreaks of salmonella enteritis and avian influenza.” A University of Pennsylvania veterinary professor told the Post that “the arguments against it are so overwhelming that we couldn’t believe they weren’t going to change it.”

Meanwhile, an ocean away, British regulators are beginning to understand the dangers posed to the public by “organic” and “free range” poultry as well. Amid complaints from the activist Soil Association, UK government safety advisors suggested this week that modern industrial farms “can more easily control the spread” of campylobacter, England’s most common source of food poisoning.