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What does organic mean?

You check out a package at your local supermarket and find that the package is labeled organic and it costs almost twice as much and the same product which does not have “organic” labeling. You wonder, what does organic mean?

There are three types of organic labeling which are

100% organic
Made from organic ingredients
All natural

According to USDA regulations, the first type of organic food i.e. 100% organic has to comprise of all organic ingredients. However processed organic food is different. If the label says “organic” and it is a processed food, it means that the food is permitted to have up to 5% non organic additives.

If the label says, made from organic ingredients, you better check up what else has been added to it.

Till some time ago, the only five ingredients that could be added to organic food were cornstarch, unbleached lecithin, pectin, water extracted gum, and kelp. USDA added 38 more ingredients and stirred up a hornets nest. Organic farmers who have toiled for 25 years to keep the purity of their label intact are alarmed. They are concerned that adding these 38 ingredients which include frozen lemongrass, hops, fish oil, sausage casing, many food colorings, and starches to the list takes away from the quality and credibility of their product.

As consumers we need to be aware that there are different degrees of organic, and some of them not worth the high price we pay for our food choice. We need to be aware that only the product labeled as 100% organic are completely free of non organic ingredients and safe to eat. It is best to avoid packaged organic food or at the very least exercise care while buying this. The good news is that the new national list has not been finalized yet. However there are indications that most of the 38 proposed items will remain on the list.

There is a lot of misconception out there. Consumers need to be aware of the following:

Organic packaged food is permitted to contain a small amount of ingredients that are not organic. Study the product content list to be sure of what you are consuming.

Farmers pay to get organic certification. If you visit your local farmer’s market, you can get good organic food, without the label. Just inquire how the small farmers grow their food.

“All natural” label is a marketing gimmick. It means nothing

Organic does not equal to good health. Organic simply means that the method to grow the produce is approved and certified as organic.
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