Talk about sticker shock!! Some organic food is more than DOUBLE the price of the conventionally grown version. AND it is not as pretty AND it goes bad faster. So, when is it worth it to buy organic? Does it matter for my children’s health? Who says it is organic? What is the difference between natural and organic?
1. Who says it is organic?
Mainly the U.S.D.A. (United States Department of Agriculture) decides who gets the stamp and who does not. Organic meat, poultry, eggs and dairy products come from animals that are not given antibiotics or growth hormones, are given organic feed and are given access to the outdoors (the amount of time outdoors can vary greatly). Organic food is grown without the use of the following:
-antibiotics or growth hormones
-pesticides and herbicides
-fertilizers made with synthetic ingredients or sewage sludge
In addition, a government approved certifier must inspect the farm where the food is grown before earning the “U.S.D.A. Organic” seal. The “U.S.D.A. Organic” seal tells you that the product is at least 95% organic. Only a label of !00% organic means that the product is made from all organic products. If the label says “made with organic ingredients” this means that the product contains at least 70% organic ingredients.
2. If the label says “natural” does that mean the product is organic?
No, “natural” does not necessarily mean organic. Natural foods usually means minimally processed and free of artificial ingredients. However, there are no government standards that need to be met so the term can be used very loosely at times.
3. Have organic foods been proven to be healthier than non-organic foods?
There have not been any well controlled studies to determine if organic foods are overall better for you than non-organic foods. The U.S.D.A. does not claim that organic food is healthier or safer. However, pesticides (which are present to a higher degree on non-organic foods) are most likely not good for you. In particular, children and pregnant/nursing women may be at more risk because of the developing brain of the child/fetus. In addition to some possible health benefits, organic foods are grown by farmers who emphasize the use of renewable resources and the conservation of soil and water. This may help protect our environment for future generations. The nutritional value of organic food does not appear to be superior to conventionally grown food but the research is ongoing.
4. Which foods should I always buy organic (highest is pesticide residue) according to the Environmental Working Group? Otherwise known as the Dirty Dozen. I would add beef, baby food, milk and peanut butter to this list.
-sweet bell peppers
5. Which conventionally grown products tend to be lowest in pesticides according to the Environmental Working Group?
-sweet corn (frozen)
-sweet peas (frozen)
6. How do I remove pesticides and harmful bacteria from my food?
Always remember to wash both organic and conventionally grown food well before eating. Some tips:
-Fill up a tub of water with a drop of dish detergent to wash most fruits and vegetables. Agitate gently in the water and then rinse well.
-Peel conventionally grown fruits and vegetables to remove pesticides and harmful bacteria.
-Remove the outer leaves of leafy vegetables and wash inner leaves well as outlined above.
-Wash the outside of melons well so that your knife and cutting board do not become contaminated.
Making smart food choices is a very important part of parenting. However, the reality is that organic food is more expensive and can go bad quickly due to lack of preservatives. How can we make good choices? Look closely at your family’s diet. What foods are on your child’s list every day? Milk, cereal, yogurt, fruit? These may be good choices to always buy organic. The butter that you use once a week may be one that you can buy non-organic. Remember, your family’s diet does not have to be all organic. Even small changes can decrease the pesticide load. Smart shopping and some planning can offset some of the costs and the reward of less pesticides in your child’s diet is likely well worth the effort.