What does buying organic really mean, and what make makes a product organic?
According to the United States Department of Agriculture, organic food is described as, “…meat, poultry, eggs and dairy products that come from animals that are given no antibiotics or growth hormones. Organic food is produced without using most conventional pesticides, fertilizers made with synthetic ingredients or sewage sludge, bioengineering or ionizing radiation”. www.usda.com
Basically for something to be organic it is made according to a set regulations and standards. Whilst organic food is a heavily regulated industry you need to be aware that different countries have different standards. Certain pesticides and chemicals can pass as ‘organic’ depending on where you are in the world.
If a product label says “100% organic” then you can rest assured that it is indeed 100% organic but products that merely say “organic” can have up to 5% of non-organically produced ingredients.
Sulfites, which is a preservative used to extend the shelf life of many products, can fall into this 5% category. Sulfites have been known to provoke allergies and asthma and are counted amongst the top ten allergens.
Studies have shown that there are links between pesticides and chemicals and certain health issues. Cancer, reproductive health as well as neurological damage is on the increase.
Organic food is chemical free, hormone and growth stimulant free, higher in vitamin content and GM (genetically modified) free. Crop rotation, green manure, compost and biological pest control are all techniques used to maintain soil productivity. These methods ensure that organic farming works with nature and not against it.
Of course there is the issue of affordability, organic food is more expensive than non-organic food but for that price you are buying peace of mind that you are making the best decision for you and your family’s health.
My recent observations at a few local supermarkets indicate a minimum of 10% difference in price.
If one looks at products labeled as “natural” you need to be aware that this term is very vague and there is no governing body that controls ingredients that are defined as “natural”. Natural food should be non-processed and not contain any hormones, antibiotics, sweeteners, food colourants or flavourants. However, you can’t rely on a label that merely states a product as “natural”.
If “going organic” is a whole new concept for you then I’d suggest you take it slow, start with a few organic products at a time, check out your local farmers market for fresh produce and always buy fruit and vegetables that are in season. The Bryanston Organic Market is an excellent market with so many different things to try. You can even get your fresh organic produce delivered to your door on a weekly basis.
Whilst you don’t want too get carried away and become completely obsessed by every little ingredient it is always a good idea to read the label and check what you are eating. Something that may appear to be healthy may in fact be loaded with all sorts of additives. A bit of everything in moderation is the key to a well balanced diet.