Organic Food Debate
The organic label has become widely popular in the last several years, because organic food providers know they can charge a premium for organic food. Unfortunately, thanks to FDA and USDA there's still plenty of legal wiggle-room for companies to mislead you about the food you are buying, that is labeled as "organic."
Whereas organic foods were once truly raised naturally, on small farms with great integrity, today big business in search of wider profits has stepped in and tainted many of the principles upon which the organic label was founded. There's no doubt about it—organic food is Big Business. According to the Organic Trade Association, U.S. sales of organic food and beverages have grown from $1 billion in 1990 to $24.8 billion in 2009.
How Consumers Can be Misled Regarding Organic Food Labeling
A "certified organic" product can actually have a mix of organic and conventional ingredients.
In fact, under the law, you could manufacture "organic beer" with completely conventional hops, label it "USDA Certified Organic," and charge a premium price for it -- hops are allowed to be non-organic under USDA Certified Organic products.
As Farm Wars puts it: "It's like putting gasoline in a glass of pure water and charging a premium for that water because it only contains 30 percent of the contaminant. 30 percent contamination is probably better than 100 percent, but would you want to drink it? The whole glass of water is poisoned due to the gasoline, yet the companies selling this product would like you to believe that because it contains pure water it is good."
The Most Obvious Organic Food Rip-Offs
Some of the most obvious organic food rip-offs include organic milk and snacks.
- Organic Milk. While organic milk may not have added antibiotics and hormones, organic milk is not raw milk, and thus not truly “organic”. Organic milk is pasteurized, and therefore still associated with all of the same health problems as regular pasteurized milk, such as a reduction of useful bacteria and beneficial enzymes, destroying part of the vitamin C contained in raw milk, encouraging growth of harmful bacteria, and making the major part of the calcium contained in raw milk insoluble. Pasteurization also destroys 20 percent of the iodine present in raw milk, causes constipation and generally takes from the milk its most vital qualities.
- Organic Snacks. And organic junk foods like cookies, crackers, ice cream, pizzas and potato chips are still some of the worst foods you can eat, regardless of whether or not the some of the ingredients in these “organic snacks” are organic. “Organic Snacks” can still contain harmful fats, and sugars which can raise your insulin levels and contribute to insulin resistance, obesity, and all of the other associated health problems.
Food companies are clearly cashing in by deceiving consumers into believing that you can eat cookies, crackers, ice cream, pizzas and potato chips without feeling guilty because they're "organic." The real crime here is the organic label means absolutely nothing here in terms of health, and can actual cause health issues.
Organic Food Labels Should be Clear
Organic food labeling should be clear. Companies should not be allowed to market their products as "made with organic ingredients," or "certified organic," if the entire product is not 100% organic. The label "Made with Organic Ingredients" can contain anywhere between 70 to 95 percent organic ingredients, while products labeled "Certified Organic" must contain at least 95 percent organic ingredients.
Changes in the Organic Food Industry that Should be Implemented to Protect the Public
When organic food or organic ingredients are mixed with non-organic ingredients, the food is no longer organic, and the FDA and USDA should not allow such mislabeling.
What You Need to Know About Organic Labels
It's important to realize that there are several different organic labels out there, but only one relates directly to foods: the USDA Organic seal. The USDA organic seal is your best assurance of organic quality. Growers and manufacturers of organic products bearing the USDA seal have to meet the strictest standards of any of the currently available organic labels.
- Products labeled "100 % Organic" must contain only organically produced ingredients
- Products labeled "Certified Organic" must contain at least 95 percent organic ingredients
- Products labeled with "Made with Organic Ingredients" can contain anywhere between 70 to 95 percent organic ingredients
The problem with the latter two labels is obvious. Anywhere from five to 30 percent of the ingredients may be conventionally-grown, so you're still exposed to pesticide residues and other questionable ingredients. The "Made with Organic Ingredients" is clearly the most misused and misleading, as it allows for plenty of conventionally-produced ingredients.
In order to ensure you're actually getting your money's worth, you need to make sure the food you buy bears the "100% USDA Organic" label. A "100% Organic" product cannot be irradiated, and cannot contain preservatives or flavor enhancing chemicals, nor traces of heavy metals or other contaminants in excess of tolerances set by the FDA. Products that are “Certified Organic" or "Made with Organic Ingredients" can contain 5-30% of potentially harmful ingredients, and can be grown with synthetic pesticides, bioengineered genes, petroleum-based fertilizers, or sewage sludge-based fertilizers.
So, in terms of organic food, there's really only one label that can provide you with any real measure of quality, and that's the "100% USDA Organic" label.
How to Find Healthy Food—100 Percent Organic or Not
- Frequent farmer's markets and food co-ops where you can find fresh locally-grown foods that are in season.
- Plant a food garden. By growing your own fruits, vegetables and herbs you can ensure that they are organic.
- If you must shop in a supermarket, look for locally grown items, which are likely to be fresher than other foods, and have less need to have additional harmful ingredients added.
Bottom Line on How to Eat Organically
Always read the packaged food labels and don't just take the organic label at face value. Remember that the only label guaranteeing the food to be truly organic is the "100% USDA Organic" label.
- Farm Wars January 6, 2011
- Dr. Mercola