Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Scoop on Healthy Living: What Does Organic Mean?

Whether you've been grocery shopping for years or just starting out after living under your parents' roof your entire life, knowing more about how to read the labels on the food your buying is important. In today's blog I wanted to talk about what things you should consider when buying organic products.

First of all, how do you know the food you're buying is completely organic?

By U.S. law, companies have to label their products in accordance to the following guidelines:
→ If all of the ingredients in a product are organic, then the label will read "100% Organic"
→ If at least 95% of the ingredients are organic, then the label will simply read "Organic"
→ If at least 70% of the ingredients are organic, then it will say "Made with Organic Ingredients"

You should keep in mind that when a label claims to be "all natural", that doesn't mean it is organic. In fact, I doubt any company is going to hide the fact their product is organic, so it will say so on the package. The only time you'll have to ask is at the Farmer's Market. At the Farmer's Market, you'll want to ask how their food was grown to avoid any confusion--i.e. with or without pesticide, etc. (as compared to simply asking if the food is organic).

What's the difference between organic and non-organic?

→ Organic meat means the animal was raised on 100% organic food. The animal was also never given growth hormones, antibiotics or any other type of drug. The meat was also never irradiated which means it wasn't exposed to radiation in processing in order to kill bacteria, germs, etc. (Don't worry, the process of cooking your meat actually takes care of this just fine.) All organically raised animals have access to the outdoors, but there is no minimum time requirement nor a space requirement.

→ Milk and eggs are organic when the animal was raised with 100% organic food and never given growth hormones or antibiotics.

→ Organic Fruits and vegetables were grown without chemicals like synthetic pesticides and fertilizers. They were not genetically engineered (which has been done in areas of the U.S. with corn, tomatoes, rice, etc.) or grown near sewage.

→ Also note there is no such thing as organic seafood. One thing you may want to ask about seafood is whether it was wild or farm-raised.

→ Another side note: irradiation is hardly ever used in Europe. They have stricter (better) safety guidelines than the U.S. and typically only use irradiation on certain spices and herbs. The main use of irradiation in the U.S. is on red meat (which I don't eat anyway, but I wanted to mention it for those of you who do) and that's due to the fact it's not always cooked "well done"; but irradiation is certainly not limited to that industry.

I hope you feel more informed about organic products. If you'd like more blogs like this, please let me know below.