Organic food and natural food, what is behind the label?

Latest trends in food buying decision
  • A retail sale of natural foods is the fastest growing segment of the grocery industry, increasing over 20% a year.
  • Food safety concerns impact 88% of buying decisions.
  • Three out of four shoppers consider pesticide use in producing foods as a serious issue.
  • One in two Americans switches product brands based on environmental friendliness.
  • Nearly 50% of consumers look for environmental labeling on products.

Natural Food Certification
Fact -over one billion pounds of pesticide active ingredients are used annually in agriculture in the United States.

Frequently asked questions about food labeling and certifications Organic - USDA Certified

"100% certified organic" - contain (excluding water and salt) only organically produced ingredients
"organic" - at least 95 percent organically produced ingredients (excluding water and salt)
"made with organic ingredients" - contain at least 70 percent organic ingredients
Processed products that contain less than 70 percent organic ingredients -cannot use the term organic anywhere on the principal display panel, but may identify the specific ingredients that are organically produced on the ingredients statement on the information panel.
Protected Harvest certification

a certification program for fresh market potatoes that meet stringent Biointensive IPM production and reduced-risk pesticide standards. By 1999, participating growers achieved an impressive 37% reduction in pesticide "toxicity units," as compared to 1995 industry baseline data.
"Organic" is not synonymous with "Natural". Be careful with "natural" label on any food products except meat and poultry, because there are no regulation or certification standards in using word "natural" in packaging!

USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) regulates the term "natural" on meat and poultry labels only.
What is a main difference between "USDA Organic" , "Protected Harvest" and "Natural" Genetic engineering, irradiation, synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, insecticides, fungicides, growth regulators and sewage sludge are all not allowed Organic farms need to prove that these materials have not been used for at least three years. Livestock and poultry that bear the organic label must be fed 100 percent organic feed and must have access to pasture. The standards bar the use of antibiotics, growth hormones, irradiation and feed containing animal byproducts. Limited use of man-made pesticides is allowed. Protected Harvest requires verifiable performance measures, including in the adoption of Biological Integrated Pest Management practices and the reduction of pesticide use. Basically, FSIS defines "natural" for meat and poultry in the following way: "A product containing no artificial ingredient or added color and is only minimally processed (a process which does not fundamentally alter the raw product) may be labeled natural. The label must explain the use of the term natural (such as--no added colorings or artificial ingredients; minimally processed).
Goals and Reality Stop any known toxic chemical and possibly harmful methods use in growing and processing the food.

Reality - organic agriculture accounts for less than one half of one percent of all crop acreage in the United States. Usually priced higher then other produce.
Produce environmentally friendlier foods that are realistic for farmers to produce and affordable for consumers to buy. Plan to develop standards for 20 new crops over the next four years.

Reality - at this time only potatoes are certified, cost comparison between organic potatoes and protected harvest potatoes is varies between states.
Mixed term with unclear meaning

Reality - term "natural" is used a lot to attract customer to buy the product at higher price without any true evidence behind the statement "natural". For example statement "natural apples" at farmers market does not have any prove or certifications that it is grown without toxic chemical.
What kind of food with certification is available Large varieties of food available in natural food stores and in some supermarkets throughout the country Only potatoes available at this time.
Potatoes that pass Protected Harvest certification are collectively marketed by Wisconsin farmers under the "Healthy Grown" brand. Their potatoes come in 3, 5, and 10-pound bags - which carry both the Protected Harvest certification seal and the World Wildlife Fund's panda bear logo.
Varieties of food has word "natural" on the label, which can be misleading for the consumer and it is not regulated by USDA with exception of meat and poultry.
Want to learn more /nop/ Consumers/brochure.html /nop/ indexIE.htm retail.htm
www.fsis.usda. gov/oa/ pubs/lablterm.htm

Organic Food: Cheap Sources?
Many of us are interested in eating organically grown food, but often its price is prohibitive. How does one reconcile frugality and health?
  1. One way to save money is to find a few health food stores in the area where you live and compare the prices from each on organic food. Look at advertised specials and buy things when they are on sale.
  2. Some health food stores have a bin that sells slightly damaged items at reduced priced. Search through those bins frequently as new things comes up.
  3. Instead of buying individual prepackaged items, buying in bulk and cooking at home saves a lot.
  4. Shopping at local Farmer's Market that sells organic foods is sometimes less costly than in chain health food stores. Sometimes you can get a better price at the clothing of the farmer market.
  5. Trader's Joe sells lots of organic foods at good price.
  6. Through the co-ops you may be able to buy organic foods for far less.
  7. Try to avoid anything that is heavily processed or packaged - it usually cost more. Stick to the fresh food.
  8. Eating beans and grains and limiting meat consumption helps to cut expenses and it is a healthier choice.

What some people say about buying organic food

"We eat organic as much as possible, which means that despite the fact that I work over 40+ hours a week, I still grocery, shop in more than 1 store. If I spend twice as much on a bag of organic carrots ($1 versus .50,) it's well worth it; I cannot even eat non-organic carrots any more. For .50 I can't even get a cup of coffee, at least not in NY. Don't be too frugal in this area but if the organic broccoli is $4 I may not buy it that week; prices change with each week and month depending on the store so watch for those movements as well! "

"I rather have organic produce to choose from-but it can be expensive. However, being an R.N., I think it would be more expensive in the long run, not to eat them. Organic foods will be cheaper in the long run because if you do get ill (i.e. cancer) the hospitalization, chemotherapy, meds, radiation will take a physical, financial and emotional toll on you."
Ellen Marie S

"I also have personally found that committing yourself to eating organic does not always come cheaply, a compromise I am willing to live with. I cannot put a price on my health."
Chris M

"It is more expensive to buy the organic fruits and vegetables in my area But my children are healthy and rarely get sick, they are very fit and active and it just feels right!"

Recommended reading list

The Eco-Foods Guide: What's Good for the Earth Is Good for You
by Cynthia Barstow

Concepts in Integrated Pest Management
by Robert F. Norris

Introduction to Integrated Pest Management
by Mary Louise Flint, Robert Van Den Bosch

Our Stolen Future: Are We Threatening Our Fertility, Intelligence, and Survival?-A Scientific Detective Story
by Theo Colborn, et al

The Botany of Desire: A Plant's-Eye View of the World
by Michael Pollen

Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal
by Eric Schlosser

For ALL Generations: Making World Agriculture More Sustainable
by J. Patrick Madden

Introduction to Sustainable Agriculture
by Jim Postance

Facilitating Sustainable Agriculture: Participatory Learning and Adaptive Management in Times of Environmental Uncertainty
by M. A. E. Wagemakers, et al

Agroecology: Ecological Processes in Sustainable Agriculture
by Stephen R. Gliessman, et al

Stolen Harvest: The Hijacking of the Global Food Supply
by Vandana Shiva

The Farm As Natural Habitat: Reconnecting Food Systems With Ecosystems
by Dana L. Jackson (Editor), et al

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