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Organic food is food that has been cultivated and processed in a more ecologically sustainable way and does not use synthetic chemical pesticides, genetically engineered seed, and artificial additives.
"Certified" organic implies that the food met the standards for growing and processing organic as established by the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture (USDA), and that third-party inspectors approved the involved farmers and manufacturers in annual on-site inspections.
A food labeled “100 percent organic” implies that 100 percent of the ingredients, additives and processing aids are certified organic. A food labeled “organic” means the food product contains 95-100 percent “certified” organic content.
Only foods with the above qualities can use the USDA Organic seal on the packaging. Foods labeled “made with organic ingredients” contain 70â94 percent organic ingredients and cannot use the USDA Organic seal.
The organic label refers to an agricultural growing method and is not intended to be a health claim. The organic rules of the USDA specifically state that the agency does not address food safety or nutrition. Some researchers have documented health and quality implications: fewer pesticide residues, less groundwater contamination and apparently higher levels of some nutrients.
For consumers, the Organic Foods Protection Act (OFPA) of 1990 meant clear criteria for what was organic, and it specifically ruled out the use of genetically engineered methods, ionizing radiation and sewage sludge fertilizers. The assurance of federal oversight attracted more players from traditional arenas and further propelled organic food products into the mainstream.
The term “organic” is distinct from the term “natural”â often and erroneously used as synonyms. The term “natural” is not federally regulated and has a broader meaning. Natural foods may contain genetically modified organisms and may be cultivated using synthetic pesticides, herbicides or fertilizer. Natural food products may also contain synthetic or artificial ingredients, which are strictly forbidden under the organic label.
|ARE ORGANICS HEALTHIER? |
A number of consumers think so. A consumer trend that started in Europe and now growing in the U.S., is to want “kitchen cupboard ingredients” on food labels.
Public debate continues regarding the health benefits to be gained from eating organic food. While many studies claim that eating organic means that you are likely to be getting more vitamins and minerals per mouthful, especially vitamin C, magnesium and iron, there are others that have shown no significant nutrient difference between organic and conventionally raised foods.
The most recent is a meta-analysis of 94,000 food samples ranging across 20 different crops. The sample data was supplied by the USDA's Pesticide Data Program and the California Dept. of Pesticide Regulation. The USDA data showed 73 percent of conventionally grown produce had at least one pesticide residue, while only 23 percent of organically grown samples of similar crops contained residues. The California data showed multiple pesticide residues nine times more often in conventionally grown food.
A United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization study concluded, "Organically produced foods have lower levels of pesticide and veterinary drug residues and, in many cases, lower nitrate contents."
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