We hear the word “organic” thrown around all over the place. We see it at the supermarket, we see it at the natural market but are these claims reliable? What is the organic definition?
There are so many varieties and nuances, but in its most basic sense the organic definition is a food product that was grown without synthetic pesticides. Also, it implies that foods do not contain additives and chemicals like ripening agents are not used on them.
Further, organic food should not have been irradiated or be a genetically modified organism (GMO). The organic definition also includes meat and animal products which must be free of antibiotics and hormones. Finally, the farm or food practices must be deemed sustainable. Sounds, pretty safe, huh?
But are you safe with this organic definition?
- Certified Organic: Certified organic foods are grown to the organic standards of the USDA. Being certified organic gives a farmer or food producer the right to bear the USDA Organic Seal. If a product doesn’t have this certification they are not allowed, by law, to give themselves the organic definition. That is, unless they are a very small farm. There is an application process, including an inspection of the property.
- Levels of Organic: Yes, the organic definition has layers of complexity that are good to know because you want to eat as organic as possible, right?
- 100% Organic: This is self explanatory. All the ingredients are organic and the processing method is organic.
- Organic: 95% or more of the ingredients are organic. Some approved chemical additives are allowed.
- Made with organic ingredients: Here is where the organic definition gets dicey. At least 75% of the ingredients are organic.
Can the organic definition of “organic” products be trusted? In theory, yes. There are very very, $11,000, very costly fines for mislabeling your product organic when it is not. However, some companies have come under severe scrutiny from the Organic Consumers Association. They call into question the legitimacy of many brands who use the organic label. These include:
- Kellogg’s (Kashi, Bear Naked, Morningstar Farms);
- General Mills (Muir Glen, Cascadian Farm, Larabar);
- Dean Foods (Horizon, Silk, White Wave);
- Smucker’s (R.W. Knudsen, Santa Cruz Organic);
- Coca-Cola (Honest Tea, Odwalla);
- Safeway (“O” Organics);
- Kraft (Boca Burgers and Back to Nature);
- Con-Agra (Orville Redenbacher’s Organic, Hunt’s Organic, Lightlife);
- and PepsiCo (Naked Juice, Tostito’s Organic, Tropicana Organic)
Now you are armed with all the down and dirty information on eating organic. Don’t settle for anything less!