Choosing Certified Organic Food

A renewed focus on healthy eating and healthier foods in recent years has resulted in a wider market for organic and natural foods. Many of these organic foods can now be found in standard grocery stores rather than only in upscale markets or health food stores. This makes choosing organic food for your family easier than ever before. To decide if organic is the right choice for your family, it’s important to understand what exactly organic foods are, what the requirements are for a food to be labeled as organic, and what the difference is between organic and natural foods.

What is Organic Food?

Organic food is grown and processed following strict guidelines that regulate the use of pesticides, hormones and fertilizers. This system of farming is aimed at reducing pollution and delivering food that is free of chemicals and additives believed to be harmful to our health. Organic farmers do not use chemical fertilizers or pest control methods, instead choosing more natural options. Organic foods include fruits, vegetables, meat, poultry, eggs and grains.

How do I Know If a Food is Organic?

The USDA labels all organic foods according to a set of guidelines for the growing and production of the food. In order to receive the USDA Organic label, the food in question must be at least 95% organic. This means 95% of the ingredients must be from organic sources. Some foods may be labeled specifically as 100% organic, generally fresh produce which has come directly from an organic farm certified by the USDA.

Some foods may contain organic ingredients, but if they are less than 95% organic can not carry the USDA label. Even if the package says organic, there is no guarantee that the food meets USDA standards unless the label is present.

You may also see foods labeled as “all natural”, which is not to be confused with organic. This generally means that the food contains natural ingredients and does not have any synthetic additives. It has no bearing on how the food was grown, and there is no USDA certification for all natural foods.

Are Organic Foods Better?

This is a controversial subject, and proponents of organic foods strongly believe that organic food is healthier, tastes better and is safer for both the environment and for human consumption.

Nutritionally, organic produce is the same as conventionally grown foods. Because organic food is not treated with preservatives, it tends to spoil faster than conventional foods. Although avoiding residues from pesticides is one of the main selling points of organic foods, the small amount that may appear on conventionally grown food is unlikely to be harmful. Because farming organically costs more, the extra cost is passed on to the consumer, which is the reason for the higher price tag on organic food. Many people believe organic food tastes better, but in blind taste tests, most people can’t tell the difference.

Choosing organic food for your family is a personal decision, which requires taking into account the potential risks of conventional food to both health and to the environment as well as your family’s budget. Luckily, for those who choose to buy organic, the rise in popularity of organically produced goods has made them a lot easier to find and may also affect the price of organic food in favor of the consumer in the future.

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