Understanding Organic Foods & Knowing When to Buy Them

Organic foods are big business in the U.S.

The Organic Trade Association in April reported that sales of organic foods in the U.S. in 2014 soared to $35.9 billion — an 11.3 percent jump from the previous year and almost 5 percent of the total food market.

As the organic food sector expands, more varieties of organic foods will start making it to local grocers.

The American Cancer Society says additives in non-organic foods are not known to directly cause cancer, but they may increase the risk of developing cancer by acting as hormone-like substances in the body.

Many studies show that plant-based foods like fruits and vegetables lower our risk for cancer, heart disease, diabetes, obesity and many other diseases. Plant-based organic diets often are recommended for patients with cancer.

What’s the Difference Between Organic Foods and Non-Organic Foods?

In order for food to display the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) organic seal, farmers and producers must verify that:

Organic foods are labeled in different ways, including:

Why Is Organic Food So Popular?

Organic food is popular because people are drawn to its many healthy, and consumer- and animal-friendly processes.

For example, those who produce organic foods use better farming practices that expose farmers and their crops to less pesticides. Producers also demonstrate better quality control and stricter standards of production than conventional food producers.

These foods usually employ a reduction in pollutants and conserve water and soil. Organic food producers also follow stricter standards for chemicals in processed foods than non-organic.

Are There Concerns About Organic Food?

For many consumers, the biggest drawback to organic food is the cost.

Organic foods can cost up to three times as much as conventional foods. These costs stem from limited supplies and stricter production, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Also, harvesting small quantities is more costly than conventional produce.

Marketing and distributing organic foods is also costlier than conventional foods because of small volumes.

Organic produce also tends to spoil faster because it is not coated with waxes or pumped with preservatives that increase its shelf life. Consumer Reports recently released findings from an ongoing, 12-year study on the amount of pesticide residue found on fruits and vegetables.

Researchers found certain conventional foods contained high levels of residue and recommend these should be purchased as organic. These foods include:

Low-risk foods showed less pesticide residue and could be purchased as conventional. These foods include:

The Bottom Line About Organic Foods

Most of us could definitely benefit from increasing our daily intake of plant-based foods like fruits and vegetables.

For those comfortable eating conventional fruits and veggies, remember their benefits far outweigh the potential risks associated with the pesticides on those foods.

A few helpful hints include:

Article Sources

  1. Schroeder, E. (2015, April 4). Costco’s organic food sales approach $3 billion. Retrieved from http://www.foodbusinessnews.net/articles/news_home/Food-Service-Retail/2015/04/Costcos_organic_food_sales_app.aspx?ID={06DE12C5-9936-482C-A129-3229D56FFA37}
  2. Organic Trade Association. (n.d.) Market Analysis. Retrieved from https://ota.com/what-ota-does/market-analysis
  3. The University of Maine. (2014) Best Ways to Wash Fruits and Vegetables. Retrieved from http://umaine.edu/publications/4336e/
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