8.29.2012

To Organic or Not to Organic

I get a question each week from a customer or two:  Should I choose organic or not?  What is the difference?  If I had to pick certain things that are organic, what should I look for?

I feel organic is a life choice and you may choose to purchase products you feel are for the health of your family. I am not the food police and do not feel I should tell you what to eat or not to it, but simply provide the tools to help you make your own decisions. The USDA does have labeling terms applied to organic foods. I shared part of their handout with you below. Personally, I recommend buying organic when it is in season and on sale. Sometimes organic may be less expensive than non-organic and it makes sense. This specifically applies to produce and animal product. When not purchasing organic produce, simply wash it really well. I suggest filling up your sink with water and adding 1/2 cup of vinegar + 1/4 cup lemon juice, add all your produce, let sit for 30 minutes and then rinse off your fruits and veggies. This will clean all your produce better than any other combination. When it comes to organic crackers, cookies, chips and other packaged foods. A cookie is still a cookie, just because it is organic does not make it healthier or better for you. Always be cautious with the foods that we know can be hazardous to our health. Putting organic ingredients in it, is not going to make it any less hazardous.

When choosing packaged foods, simply look for whole and minimal ingredients. The longer the ingredient list, the less likely it is made up of whole ingredients. For example:  Shredded wheat is made with minimal ingredients and processing, where as Frosted Shredded Wheat has many additional ingredients to make it sweet. Simple is always better, whole is always best, but it does not have to be organic for it to be good for you.

The Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA) and the National Organic Program (NOP) assure consumers that the organic agricultural products they purchase are produced, processed, and certified to consistent national organic standards. The labeling requirements 
of the NOP apply to raw, fresh products and processed products that contain organic agricultural ingredients.  Agricultural products that are sold, labeled, or represented as organic must be produced and processed in accordance with the NOP standards. 
Except for operations whose gross income from organic sales totals $5,000 or less, farm and processing operations that grow and process organic agricultural products must be certifi ed by USDA-accredited certifying agents.  Labeling requirements are based on the percentage of organic ingredients in a product. 
Agricultural products labeled “100 percent organic” 
and “organic” 
Products labeled as “100 percent organic” must contain (excluding water and salt) only organically produced ingredients and processing aids. Products labeled “organic” must consist of at least 95 percent organically produced ingredients (excluding 
water and salt). Any remaining product ingredients must consist of nonagricultural substances approved on the National List including specific non-organically produced agricultural products that are not. Products meeting the requirements for “100 percent organic” and “organic” may display these terms and the percentage of organic content on their principal display panel. The USDA seal and the seal or mark of involved certifying agents may appear on product packages and in advertisements. Agricultural products labeled “100 percent organic” and “organic” cannot be produced using excluded methods, sewage sludge, or ionizing radiation. 
Processed products labeled “made with organic 
ingredients” 
Processed products that contain at least 70 percent organic ingredients can use the phrase “made with organic ingredients” and list up to three of the organic ingredients or food groups on the principal display panel. For example, soup made with at least 70 percent organic ingredients and only organic vegetables may be labeled either “soup made with organic peas, potatoes, and carrots,” or “soup made with organic vegetables.” Processed products labeled “made with organic ingredients” cannot be produced using excluded methods, sewage sludge, or ionizing radiation. The percentage of organic content and the certifying agent seal or mark may be used on the principal display panel. However, the USDA seal cannot be used anywhere on the package.