Is that Organic?

July 26, 2012

Interest in organic foods is steadily increasing and 'organic foods' are even becoming readily available in large grocery chains, but what are organic foods and what are the benefits?  After a period of confusion, guidelines have been developed to assist in choosing and understanding what 'organic' means.  So now that we have a path to follow when choosing organic food ... what are the benefits?  There are a multitude, but the primary benefits to the consumer are:
  • Growing Standards. Organic certification offers assurance that the food you and your loved ones eat have been grown and handled according to strict procedures without toxic chemicals. Any product has been Certified Organic by Quality Assurance International (QAI) has gone through investigation of its source and production methods.
  • Great Taste! A study pulished in Nature by researchers at Washington State University studied the effects of organic, conventional and integrated apple production systems. Taste was measured three ways and found that fruit firmness at harvest and after six months storage was higher for organic than conventional or integrated methods. They also found that the ratio of sugar content to acidity was also higher among organic apples. These laborator tests were followed up and  confirmed by consumer taste tests! Organic is not only better for you, it tastes better!
  • Health Risk Reduction. Many pesticides were approved by the EPA before research linked these chemicals to cancer and other diseases. Currently, 60% of all herbicides used as weed killers, 90% of products used as mold killers, and 30% of insecticides are considered cancer causing by the EPA. Organic farming doesn't just restrict the use of these dangerous chemicals, it prohibits the use of antibiotics which are known to create dangerous antibiotic-resistant pathogens in animal feed.  What a great way to protect your family.
Organic farming refers to the processes used to grow food including methods of weed and pest controls along with the use of  mulch and organic fertilizers to enrich the soil. Organic fertilizers contain nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium, trace minerals, enzymes, vitamins  and other organic matter. Organic farmers must keep records to show that they are continuing to use and improve practices for the health of the soil to achieve EPA accreditation. Additionally, animals in organic farms are not given antibiotics unless needed for an infection and growth hormones are not permitted. This applies to meat, poultry, eggs and dairy products. The question is, in a global market, how do you know your food is truly organic. When stories about recent increases in the amount of "organic" food that may be coming from China and other distant regions are in the news, how can we trust that the food we buy is really organic? The best choice is to try to buy local foods by organic farmers when possible, and when you buy from a grocer, remember these guidelines:
  • Foods can only carry the USDA Organic Seal if they are 100 percent certified organic or , in the case of prepared food, contain at least 95 percent organic ingredients. Other phrases such as 'natural' or 'free-range' do not imply organic by the definition of the USDA.
  • Food that has between 70 and 95 percent organic ingredients may use 'Made with organic ingredients' on the label
  • Food with less than 70 percent organic ingredients may list the ingredients in the ingredient list but not on the front panel.
Food sold in the U.S. has to be approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture before it can display the "organic" label.  Read the labels ... ensure your food is safe and that you're getting what you pay for!


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