Saturday, June 15, 2013

Part I: Organic Issues

Many people claim to eat only "organic or natural foods."  Fantastic.  However, when it comes to labeling, natural means nothing.  Just look to the FDA for their answer on the question:

"What is the meaning of 'natural' on the label of food?

From a food science perspective, it is difficult to define a food product that is 'natural' because the food has probably been processed and is no longer the product of the earth. That said, FDA has not developed a definition for use of the term natural or its derivatives. However, the agency has not objected to the use of the term if the food does not contain added color, artificial flavors, or synthetic substances." 


Deena Shanker (Is the ‘natural’ label 100 percent misleading? ) delves deeper into the subject, gleaning that "all natural" in regards to meats means nothing "unnatural" has happened after slaughter.  While that is better than nothing, it is the feed, use of antibiotics, and living conditions that are perhaps the most important factors in determining meat quality. For everything else, it is a little hazier.

I cannot discern whether or not the FDA's answer means that added color, artificial flavors, and/or synthetic substances bar the use of a "natural" descriptor.  The key thing to remember is that using the phrase "all natural" does not require certification like the use of "organic." Some of the most laughably processed foods are labelled "natural."  The rigor of the organic certification separates it from the other options.  I am just trying to educate, not put down natural options.  Many people think they are getting something equivalent when they are actually not.

That said, organic is the goal for my family and many others.  It is extremely expensive, generally, and not widely available.  You can often end up paying double but it is the fastest growing sector of the grocery industry.  With this growth, it is only natural (no pun intended) that people want to eat healthily and safely while saving.  I do recommend reviewing the list of the dirty dozen and clean fifteen of produce.  If you cannot afford to go all organic, these are great guidelines for getting the most safety with the least spending.  

If you are interested in eating more organic foods, I recommend that you start with the dirty dozen and more importantly, animal products.  This means all meats and dairy products.  It is expensive so doing meatless meals and using meat sparingly will help you stretch your dollar.  Look for my recipes using minimal meat in the future! Look below for reasons why organic foods are preferable.

Why Buy Organic Animal Products? - While this is not the most reputable, scientific site, it does give a good, easy to read list of reasons. 

A More Scientifically Based List of Reasons  - The Organic Consumer Association, while biased, offers scientific backed reasons why everyone should eat more organic foods.

Scientific Findings About Organic Agriculture - The most unbiased source I could find, linking to numerous studies and their findings.  I will note that they did recently find that organic food has a higher nutrition content, despite contrary claims.

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