Everyone wants to eat nutritious foods and most people know exactly what they are. Foods are divided into two camps:
- conventionally grown (cg) foods
- organic foods
By far, most of the cg foods that are available to us are processed. The seeds for plant products have been genetically engineered and some have been irradiated. The plants are grown using synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. Once harvested, the plants are refined and processed. During processing, the food is further enhanced with B vitamins, minerals, preservatives and colourings. Finally, the product is canned, boxed or frozen before it reaches the consumer.
Organic foods are grown without the use of irradiation, bioengineering or pesticides. Meat products are raised without antibiotics or hormones.
The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) defines organic four ways:
- The term 100% organic means only organic ingredients are found in the product.
- Organic means that it has 95% organic ingredients.
- Made with organic ingredients means that only 70% of the product is made with organic ingredients.
- Contains organic ingredients means that the product contains less than 70% organic ingredients.
Farmers who grow organic produce and meat must follow strict soil and water conservation methods and guidelines for the humane treatment of animals. Today, over consumers buy more than $15 billion of organic foods and beverages annually.
- Nutrition:There is no scientific evidence or support from the USDA that organic food is more nutritious than conventionally grown food.
- QualityThe same quality and safety standards apply to organic and conventionally grown foods.
- Appearance:Organic foods may be smaller, have odd shapes or varying colors, but in most cases, they look identical to their cg counterparts. Because they aren’t treated with waxes, organic fruits and vegetables are not shiny and without preservatives they spoil faster.
- Taste:Taste is a matter of personal choice. People are divided as to whether organic and non-organic foods taste the same or are different. Most fruits and vegetables taste best if they are bought the day they are brought to market. Taste is also affected by the way produce is stored and prepared at home.
- Pesticides:Conventional growers use pesticides to protect their crops from moulds, insects and diseases. The residue of pesticides on foods are minimal, but you should wash all fresh fruits and vegetables thoroughly with running water. Peel both and trim the outer leaves of leafy vegetables after washing them. Pesticide residue is found in fat, so remove fat from meat and the skin from poultry and fish.
- Cost:Organic food can cost 50-100% more than cg food products. This is due to higher labor costs, tighter government regulations and lower crop yields. You should consider the best value for your money before buying either cg or organic foods.
The food production will change and eventually more information will be required on food labels. It is possible that within a few years, food labels will reveal about the pesticides used during production as well as the nutritional content. Remember to keep checking the food labels for all the information.
- Consumer Reports.Org. (February 2006) When it Pays to buy Organic. URL: http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/food/diet-nutrition/organic-products/organic-products-206/overview/index.htm
- Doyle, M. Ellin. (November 2006) Natural and Organic Foods: Safety Considerations – A Brief Review of the Literature. Food Research Institute, University of Wisconsin–Madison. URL: http://www.wisc.edu/fri/briefs/FRIBrief_NaturalOrgFoods.pdf
- Mayo Clinic.Com. (December 20, 2006) Organic foods: Are they safer? More nutritious? URL: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/organic-food/NU00255
- North Carolina State University. (no date). What does the Organic Label Really Mean? NCSU Successful Family. URL: http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/successfulfamily/Nutrition%20&%20Wellness/organlab.htm
- Van Dusen, Allison. (March 2, 2007) Cleaning out the Fridge: Toss these Food Myths. Forbes.Com. URL: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/17390027