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Friday, 08 November 2013 12:09

What is Organic Food?

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Organic food is produced according to strict government standards established by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Organic food may not contain synthetic pesticides, chemical fertilizers or chemical food additives. Although there are no studies that show organic food is healthier, safer or tastes better than conventional food, many people still perceive that organic food is better for eating.

When we hear the phrase "organic food" or "organic farming" we often think of local farmers and farmers' markets. But in fact, organic food is produced according to strict guidelines set up by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and overseen by the USDA's National Organic Program. Established in 1990, the NOP oversees agricultural food products including both crops and livestock. In Europe, the standards for organic food are even higher.

The National Organic Program oversees production "from seed to sale" in order to maintain integrity and combat fraud. Organic farmers must study, complete extensive paperwork and submit to annual government audits. Some of the requirements for organic food include:

  • No use of human sewage sludge fertilizer
  • No use of non-approved chemicals (fertilizer, pesticides, antibiotics, food additives, etc.)
  • No genetically modified organisms
  • No irradiation
  • Use of farmland that has been free of synthetic chemicals for three years or more
  • Keeping detailed written production and sales records (audit trail)
  • Periodic USDA on-site inspections

Because of the stringent production requirements, organic food is often more expensive than conventional food. But are organic foods healthier or more nutritious? According to the Mayo Clinic the answer is not clear: "A recent study examined the past 50 years' worth of scientific articles about the nutrient content of organic and conventional foods. The researchers concluded that organically and conventionally produced foodstuffs are comparable in their nutrient content."

Yet despite the lack of scientific evidence, many people still prefer organic food, because they are concerned by pesticides, chemical fertilizers, genetically modified organisms and human sewage sludge in their food chain.

You may be familiar with other types of food labels, such as "free range" or "hormone free." While those labels can be accurate, only foods which meet the strict criteria of the USDA's National Organic Program may use the organic label. Nowadays organic foods can be found in most supermarkets at competitive prices. California Medical Weight Management urges you to eat healthy. So give organic food a try!


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