Wednesday, June 6, 2012


As you continue in your journal towards optimal health, I’m sure you’ve heard the term “organic” as it relates to food.  There are so many conflicting opinions on what organic food is, if you should eat it, when you should it etc.  It’s understandable why your head may be spinning into a sea of (organic or not?) mush!

Hopefully the following info can clear up a few questions you may have:

Where did the organic movement start?

A brief history: 1990-national standards set:  Congress passed the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA) which required the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to develop national standards for organically produced agricultural products.  The National Organic Program (NOP) was created as a result and developed national organic standards for food. (The NOP is part of the USDA). 

What is organic?

The USDA labels crops, livestock, and multi-ingredient foods organic if they meet the following requirements. 
1.       Crops (think fruits, vegetables) will be USDA organic if irradiation, sewage sludge, synthetic fertilizers, prohibited pesticides, and genetically modified organisms were not used.
2.       Livestock (think chicken, cow, pig) will be USDA organic if producers met animal health and welfare standards, did not use antibiotics or growth hormones, used 100% organic feed, and provided animals with access to the outdoors.
3.       Multi-ingredient foods (think bread, frozen pizza, etc.) will be USDA organic if the product has 95% or more certified organic content.

 The official label looks like:

If you see either of these labels (it comes in several sizes and is on different places on the product) then you can be sure that it has been reviewed and verified organic by the government.

If it’s not organic then it’s………..?

‘Conventional.’  Conventional farming uses pesticides, insecticides and/or herbicides on crops to get rids of pests and weeds.  Conventional farming also feeds animals growth hormones and antibiotics.  The animals are often squeezed into small, dark, spaces. (animal cruelty is the topic for next blog)

Is eating organic better for your health?

This is debatable.  Organic food may be safer as some experts believe those chemicals listed above may increase your risk for cancer, problems with reproductive health, problems with your nervous system. Some experts also believe organic food may have more nutrients than conventional food. 
HOWEVER, organic food could harbor disease-causing organisms such as E. coli and Salmonella. Just last week a farm in the Midwest had to recall its organic spinach because it contained Salmonella.  (damned if you do, damned if you don’t…)  Check this link out to learn about how food gets contaminated:

SECONDLY, the USDA specifically states that “Neither the OFPA nor the NOP regulations address food safety or nutrition.”  Well, there you have it.  The absence of those pesticides, herbicides etc.  doesn’t mean that the food is safe or nutritious!
LASTLY, pizza is pizza and cheese is cheese. Don’t lie to yourself. It’s not healthy, organic or not.

So….should you go?

Here are my thoughts: if it’s in your budget, I would try to eat organic fruits and vegetables as often as possible.  I would also recommend eating organic livestock.

When it comes to the multi-ingredient foods, make healthy choices first and then decide on organic or not.  For example, oatmeal has been proven to be a healthy food choice.  I usually buy organic oatmeal (slightly more expensive, but I try not to cut corners when it comes to my health).  But if you’re going to buy frozen pizza, don’t waste your money. It’s not healthy anyway!

Resources to check out

Photo credit

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