So many products now come with some type of a label saying “Organic” but what does this mean? Not all organic labels are equal. Let us helps to demystify the various “Organic” labels out there. By understanding what these labels mean you can become a more informed consumer and make purchase decisions that truly reflect your intentions.
The following are common organic labels you will encounter on products and their meaning.
Certified Organic – “Free of synthetic additives like pesticides, chemical fertilizers, and dyes, and must not be processed using industrial solvents, irradiation of genetic engineering” according the USDA.
Organic – Products containing at least 95% to 99% certified organic ingredients may be labeled organic as long as the non-organic ingredients are approved by the National Organic Program, a sub division of the USDA. (May have the USDA seal)
100% Organic – all ingredients within the product meet certified organic standards. (May have the USDA seal)
Made with Organic – 70% to 94% of the ingredients are certified organic; the remaining 30% cannot be processed with additives that are not on the USDA special exclusion list. (Products with this label cannot have a USDA seal)
Organic Ingredients – Less than 70% of the ingredients are certified organic. The label may list the organic ingredients contained in the product on the information panel. (Products with this label cannot have a USDA seal)
Other – labels such as “all-natural”, “farm raised” and “grass fed” are not regulated and carry little meaning.
It is entirely possible to see the word “organic” on a product that is not eligible to display the USDA organic seal if the organic ingredients in the product comprise 94% or less if the ingredients. For this reason it is important to exercise caution when buying. Not all things displaying the word organic are equal.
Pros and Cons to Organic Foods
Nutritional Value – Organic foods do not necessarily have a higher nutritional value than conventional foods. Although some have hotly debated this topic, studies show that a products organic nature is not a consistent indicator of nutritional value. The USDA does not consider nutritional value as a factor in their organic food certification program.
Environment – foods grown organically are not grown in environments that use pesticides or chemical fertilizers that are not on the USDA special exclusion list. For this reason organic farms are considered to have less of a negative impact on the environment than conventional farms.
Pesticide Free - Be aware that just because something is labeled organic it does not mean the product is pesticide free. It simply means that they types of pesticides used were on the USDA’s allowed list. While organic foods tend to have lower traces of pesticides in the product than conventional foods, pesticides are still present in the foods to a degree. However, your exposure is less with organic products.
Taste – The answer to this depends on you! Some people state that they can clearly taste the difference between organic and conventional products while others notice no difference. Do organic products taste better than conventional products? The answer to this question is for you and your taste buds to decide. Energetically the foods may be healthier regardless of taste.
Price – Unfortunately most products labeled organic do cost more. Part of this is due to supply and demand and part of this is due to the fact that it often does cost more to farm organically versus farming conventionally.
Pregnant Mothers & Young Children – A developing fetus in the womb or a young child are the most vulnerable to higher amounts of chemicals in the food such as pesticides, antibiotics and other chemicals. Children are uniquely susceptible to toxicity from these substances. To the degree that parents can minimize exposure the greater the benefit to avoiding adverse reactions, impacts on development and cognition based on the research. Aside from purchasing organic produce and meats, purchasing organic cereals and baby foods like those produced by Happy Baby are a healthy option for infants.
Should you “Go Organic”?
Statistically organic foods tend to cost up to 30% more than the conventional version of the product. Is it worth the cost? While organic foods may not necessarily have more nutritional value, when you choose to eat organic foods you are ingesting lower levels of chemicals, pesticides, growth hormones and antibiotics. Some products like produce don’t seem to show much of a variance in the levels of chemicals ingested between conventional and organically grown produce. See the following product suggestions of what products may be better when organic.
Beef – nonorganic farms utilize growth hormones to stimulate the growth of the cows. The studies are still inconclusive as to what if any impact ingesting these hormones has on humans. Until more is known, to minimize your exposure to these chemicals it is generally suggested to go organic.
Poultry and Pork – Organic farms do not use synthetic pesticides, fertilizer or antibiotics, all of which are common on conventional farms. Some studies show that the exposure to the antibiotics may contribute to antibiotic resistant bacteria. If you do buy conventional try to avoid the fat and skin as this is where the pesticide chemicals will be stored in higher doses.
Peanut Butter – Organic peanut butter will not contain the sugar and fat from the partially hydrogenated oil that is found in conventional peanut butter. These ingredients increase risk for heart disease. Organic peanut butter will only be made with peanuts and salt providing a healthier product.
Microwave Popcorn – Both the chemicals used to coat the bag and the ingredients in the artificial butter have been linked to cancer causing agents and breathing problems. Go organic to avoid these potentially dangerous ingredients.
Coffee & Tea – Coffee is the crop that is most often treated with the highest volumes of pesticide and chemicals in conventional farming. This is because of the way the crops are grown that makes the crops extremely vulnerable to pests and insects. With Coffees and Teas the steeping process the pesticides and chemicals that are water soluble are extracted into the beverage that you ingest. For this reason purchasing organic coffees and teas are recommended as the pesticide levels are often unhealthy. Teeccino offers a variety of organic coffees including Teeccino Mediterranean Herbal Coffee Hazelnut. Also, Uncle Lee’s Tea provides organic Green Tea and White Tea.
Seafood – The USDA does not have standards for organic seafood. This means that the word organic on seafood carries little meaning. Shop for fish that is low in mercury and keep in mind that there is no guaranteed difference between seafood marked organic versus conventional seafood.
Avocados, Pineapples & Melons – Produce with thick skins tend to protect the fruit from being contaminated with sprayed pesticides. If you buy conventional fruits with thick skins wash the fruit well before peeling. The difference between organic and conventional here is minimal at best.
Apples, Peaches, Plums, Strawberries, Leafy Vegetables – Produce where you eat the peel is better to purchase organic. The pesticides used on conventional farms remains on the skin to a great degree even after washing. Even though the levels are within USDA allowable limits if you are concerned about ingesting these chemicals at any level, by purchasing from an organic farm you will ingest a minimal amount of pesticides.
Fruit Juices – As a result of the extraction process organic juices do contain fewer pesticides and chemicals and few to no additives (preservatives, artificial sweeteners, colorings, flavorings and monosodium glutamate). As a result organic juices retain more antioxidants and key nutrients including vitamin C, iron, magnesium and phosphorous than non-organic juices. The company Only Natural provides organic juice concentrates in cranberry and noni.
Root Vegetables - Fertilizers and pesticides are added to the soil in both conventional and organic growing. Despite the type of farm, root vegetables at the store are likely to have chemicals in them. If it is possible to purchase from a local farmer, who does not treat with chemicals, that may be the best option in general when it comes to produce.
Nuts & Seeds – Nuts such as peanuts that are actually grown in the ground and like root vegetables will absorb the pesticides and chemicals from the soil through the roots. In general nuts and seeds have a higher oil and fat content that result in a more significant absorption rate of pesticides than other forms of produce. The Online Organic Health Store offers a variety of organic seeds and nuts including Raw Organic Chia Seeds. It is also important to remember that nuts as an ingredient in other foods and snack bars. Choose an organic option for these as well such as Luna Snack Bar Organic Caramel Nut Brownie.
Consider the Source. Buy with reputable vendors who specialize in providing organic and environmentally conscious products to their customers. This will make your buying decisions easier as these vendors have already screened the products they offer prior to marketing them to you.
When looking to purchase items that are organic and natural check out the Online Organic Health Store. All products are organic and environmentally friendly. Most food items are certified organic with many proudly displaying the USDA seal. All products are at least 75% organic. Visit the Online Organic Health Store to stock your pantry with healthy foods and supplements and to discover environmentally friendly household products.