Knowing when the ‘Organic’ Label is Worth the Extra Dollars
Buying everything organic – from milk to mangoes – might be a healthy choice for the body, but many consumers have found it’s less-than-healthy for the household budget.
For those that can’t afford to go all organic, certain foods take priority over others – especially if the aim is to avoid pesticides.
“Because organic foods cost more, it is important to pick and choose foods that really make a difference in your health and the health of your family,” says Carol Herendeen, a registered dietician with Watson Clinic in Lakeland. “Not all purchased foods need to be organic, especially when shopping on a limited food budget.”
She says that when deciding on whether to buy organic or not there are several things to consider:
– Was the organic food grown in the United States? The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has developed strict rules for foods that can be labeled “organic.” Farms are inspected before a farmer or rancher can use the “organic” label. Food grown in other countries may not be consistent with USDA laws. Imported organic foods may not be pesticide free.
– Does the fruit or vegetable have an edible skin? It might be more important to buy organic fruits and vegetable based on whether you will be eating the skin or not. A tough skin will provide more of a barrier to pesticides.
– Choose organic based on recent published lists of the most and least contaminated foods. Using studies obtained from the FDA and USDA, a non-profit group, Environmental Working Group (EWG) has published these lists. The most contaminated foods include apples, celery, strawberries, peaches, spinach, nectarines (imported), grapes (imported), bell peppers, potatoes, blueberries (domestic), lettuce, and kale/collards. The least contaminated foods include onions, sweet corn, pineapples, avocados, asparagus, sweet peas, mangoes, eggplant, cantaloupe (domestic), kiwi, cabbage, watermelon, sweet potatoes, grapefruit, and mushrooms. Choose organic foods from the list of foods that have the most pesticides.
“Nutritionally, there is no difference between organic versus nonorganic foods,” Herendeen points out. “The vitamins and minerals in an apple are the same whether it’s organic or not. The primary difference with organic foods is in the production and processing methods used. Pesticides are toxins, used to kill insects and bugs that are harmful to the plant.”
Organic food has been grown or raised without chemical fertilizers, pesticides, weed killers or drugs. By definition, organic foods are produced according to government-established production standards. Organic produce is grown without the use of conventional pesticides or artificial fertilizers and contains no food additives. Organic beef, pork and poultry come from animals reared without the routine use of antibiotics and without a trace of growth hormones.