What does organic mean?

I think it's pretty safe to say that people generally associate the word "organic" with healthy, but do you know what being organic actually means?

The term organic essentially means that the manufacturer is using approved methods to produce items that are free from pesticides, chemical fertilizers, antibiotics, horomones and other unnatural and harmful ingredients. 

How can you identify organic items at your grocery store?

USDA certified organic items carry a specific seal that can be easily identified by consumers.

 

organic seal

It is important to note that a product that is labled as "all natural" does not mean it is organic. A USDA organic seal has specific guidelines that must be followed in order to be able to use that label. Manufacturers are also inspected annually to ensure that they are following organic processes and meet the criteria for labeling.

 

Stoneyfield Chart
Credit: http://www.stonyfield.com/why-organic/organic-vs-natural

As you can see, there is a huge difference between being "all natural" and organic.

Why is organic a better choice?

Many consumers have a false sense of security when it comes to the the food we eat and the products we use in our homes every day. We blindly trust that if something wasn't safe that it wouldn't be able to be sold in our stores. Sadly, that simply is not true. So many of the products on shelves these days are loaded with pesticides, genetically modified organisms (GMO's), carcinogens, preservatives, synthetic horomones and many other harmful agents that are not good for you. Reading labels and buying organic products is especially important in homes with young children. Not only are children in the most critical years for brain development in the early years of life, but their bodies are phycially smaller than an adult and are more vulnerable.

Always look at the produce sticker

If there is any doubt about whether the produce in your hand is organic or not, look at the produce sticker. Each item carries an identifying number that can be easily decoded by consumers.

- If the PLU on your produce is a 4 digit code, it means that it is conventionally grown using pesticides.

- If the PLU on your produce has a prefix of 8 in front of the 4 digit code (example: 84011) it indicates that the produce is a genetically modified or GMO. Click here for more information on GMO's.

-If the PLU on your produce has a prefix of 9 in front of the 4 digit code (example: 94011), it indicates that the produce is organic.

Sadly, at this point in time, there are no regulations in place that force grocers to label their produce with the 8 prefix. This means that the only way to truly avoid GMO's is to buy organic products.

The "dirty dozen"

There is a list widely known as "the dirty dozen". These are the top 12 items that are the most important to buy organic. The reason for this is because they are the items that are treated with the most pesticides and harmful agents.

These items are the most important to buy organic.

  • Peaches
  • Apples
  • Bell Peppers
  • Celery
  • Nectarines
  • Strawberries
  • Cherries
  • Kale
  • Blueberries
  • Grapes
  • Potatoes
  • Spinach

The items listed below are slightly safer to buy non-organic because they don't require as many pesticides.

  • Onions
  • Avocadoes
  • Sweet Corn (watch out for GMO!)
  • Pineapples
  • Mangoes
  • Sweet Peas
  • Kiwis
  • Cabbages
  • Eggplants
  • Papayas
  • Watermelons
  • Broccoli
  • Tomatoes
  • Sweet Potatoes

In my opinion, we should buy organic products whenver possible. The best gift we can give our children and ourselves is a healthy life.