Monday, July 25, 2011

USDA Rundown

The more I learn about organic foods, the more I try to implement locally-grown, organic produce into my diet. Not only are organic fruits and vegetables higher in vitamins, minerals, and proteins* but I also respect local-farming methods.

My husband first latched onto the idea of organic eating after reading a book titled "Silent Spring" which focuses on poisons from commonly used pesticides at home and in wide-spread agriculture and its affect on our food. Richard isn't a big reader so when this book grabbed his attention, he grabbed mine whenever he talked about it. Two years ago was the time we started to really focus on bringing more organic food into our home, and learn more about it. 

The USDA Organic-Certified seal first started appearing on food labels in 2002 with continued demand for organic products, and it was meant to keep a standard of accountability. But does the average consumer know what it takes to get this seal--what legal rules the producers and farmers have to follow in order to legally use that seal? 
Here's a little more about what this seal means:

•For a farmer to be "USDA Organic-Certified" the land must go through a three-year transition away from prohibited pesticides.

•13 pesticides are allowed in organic farming, but they are made from ingredients like bacteria and fungus, found in soil, flower petals, clay, and oils from plants. 

•Farmers must use approved methods and non-synthetic fertilizers.

•Small farmers may end up skipping the costs of getting organically certified but still practice sustainable farming. Some, simply because they can't afford to pay the fees to have the seal.  But, you can believe that if a small farmer has paid the sometimes $1000+ for "Organic" in writing, they'll advertise it.

•Organic meat farmers must give animals organic feed and allow them access to the outdoors. They engage in preventative measures to prevent disease. 

•Do not confuse "Organic" with other terms such as "all-natural," "free-range," or "hormone-free." These may be important factors to organic, but just displaying the latter terms doesn't necessarily mean organic.

•Products that have 100% organic ingredients, and processed according to USDA standards can bear the seal. But a product that has at least 95% organic ingredients can be labeled "organic" and have the seal as well. Think about this: is there really such thing as an organic cookie? It's all a bunch of food science.

•And my final thought: Organic junk food is still junk food. 

Did you know?

Children's chemical levels in the bloodstream can drop to negligible levels in as little as 7 days just by switching to organic vegetables.

*Stewart, Kimberly. Eating Between the Lines. Pg 10-11.

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