Organic Foods: Safer or Not?

Posted on September 17, 2012 by

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Reports questioning whether or not organic foods are healthier than conventional foods have been making headlines lately but what about the safety level of organics, are they safer than other foods? A recent recall by a Northern California supplier of conventionally grown lettuce heightens concerns over food purity. The California company recalled romaine lettuce in 19 states for possible E.coli contamination. Some consumers may think organic foods are immune from such concerns, but not so.

According to Oregon Live, in May, 2012 Taylor brand foods, a major supplier of organic spinach recalled much of its product after a random sampling showed evidence of salmonella poisoning, and the previous year Andrew Williamson Fresh Produce recalled cases of organic grape tomatoes from around the world. The tomatoes also tested positive for salmonella.

Organic Concerns

Confusion in labeling and a clear understanding about what exactly “organic” means makes it more difficult for consumers to choose the safest products. The fact that a product has earned the USDA Organic label doesn’t mean that it’s guaranteed to be free of natural contaminants like salmonella, listeria or E.coli.

Only food that contains at least 95 percent organic ingredients may be labeled as organic, according to USDA regulations. The USDA Organic seal is available to foods that meet this requirement, but its use isn’t mandatory. Foods labeled “all natural,” “hormone-free” or “cage-free” are not necessarily organic.

Organic foods may be high in salt, fat, sugar and calories. Assuming a product is healthy just because it meets the USDA standard is a mistake. Consumers need to read all food labels carefully to discern the nutritional value of the product.

Organic products often cost more than their conventionally produced counterparts. For consumers who can absorb the extra cost this is no problem and finding coupon codes for organically produced foods can help offset costs.

Staying Safe

Organic foods are no less safe or healthy than other foods, and many consumers prefer to buy organic products for environmental reasons if not for immediate health benefits. Following a few food safety tips will help ensure you’re eating the safest and best quality food whether it’s organic or conventionally grown.

  • Wash produce thoroughly before eating. Organic and conventionally grown products are at risk for contamination to naturally occurring toxins. Washing is the best way to ensure their safety.
  • Read labels carefully. Look for the USDA Organic label and don’t be fooled by terms like “all natural.” Consumers need to look closely at what they’re purchasing instead of buying whatever is cheapest.
  • Check the ingredient list. Foods high in fat and sugar should be limited whether the ingredients are organic or not.
  • For the freshest fruits and vegetables buy seasonal produce.
  • Avoid the “dirty dozen” if you’re still concerned about pesticide residue. The dirty dozen are a list of 12 foods thought to contain the highest pesticide residues: apples, celery, strawberries, peaches, spinach, imported nectarines, imported grapes, blueberries, potatoes, sweet bell peppers, lettuce and kale/collard greens. Balance out your diet and your food budget by purchasing organic versions of these foods.

Consumers depend on food manufacturers to supply them with products that are safe and for the most part they do. Considering the many tons of produce and other goods that are delivered to grocery stores each year, recalls and contamination concerns are few. But when contamination occurs, the results can literally be fatal. Fortunately, following the simple steps above can help each individual to ensure his food is healthy and safe.

Posted in: diet