Is Your Food Really THAT Organic?
Most people jump for joy when they see any mention of something organic on a label, but before you do a backflip into the next aisle you should read this article. When people care about their health they will often turn to organic food but, without properly learning the rules behind labeling, they might not be eating as organically as they think. But, by the end of this article, you’ll know when the break out into acrobatics and when a mere shoulder shrug will suffice.
100% Organic Food
When you see that phrase above (100% Organic), that’s a beautiful thing and it’s worth getting excited over, for the sake of your health. You see, the phrase organic refers to food that is free of synthetic chemicals, whether it be additives, petroleum-based or sewage-based fertilizers, pesticides or even antibiotics. It refers to a food that is NOT genetically modified or irradiated. Also, the land that the food is grown on has not had any of these harmful substances in the soil for many years. And, if it’s an animal product, the animals are fed organic food, allowed to go outside and aren’t given antibiotics or growth hormones. Sounds like a pretty good thing, right?
And when something is 100% Organic it can have a lovely USDA Organic sticker on it, so you know it’s good. They don’t have to put the sticker on their product, if it meets these terms, but who wouldn’t want to put that on there, right? It’d boost your sales! But this sticker can be slapped on “single ingredient” items like fruits and vegetables that are grown organically, and it can also be stuck to products that contain 100% organic ingredients.
Yep, only products where every single ingredient (other than water or salt) is organic can be labeled as 100% organic. This is the kind of food you should aim to get; it’s completely organic and you’re doing your body a favor. So take a little extra time and look for that “100%” to be on the label. I’m sure you want your body to be running at 100% capacity, so why not be composed of 100% organic food? You know, organic… something that was actually alive at one point, not synthetic chemicals or additives that do you no good.
But, this is not the only instance where the term “organic” is used on a label, and that’s where the confusion comes in. It can really hurt your efforts, when aiming for a healthy lifestyle, if you just skim a food product’s label and are suddenly satisfied when you see the word “organic”.
Not So 100% Organic Food
When you see the word Organic on a label, it doesn’t mean that it’s 100% organic. In fact, when you see a USDA Organic sticker on a product, it doesn’t even mean it’s 100% organic! You see, you can call something organic if it has 95% organic ingredients in it, by weight. Yeah, so 5% of your product can be complete junk! I’m not saying that it will be but it could be, especially when you consider the percentage is by weight.
There are some very harmful substances and ingredients out there that don’t weigh much at all, so you can pack a bunch in and have room to spare in that 5%. An organic product (95% or more organic) can actually be pretty decent, but it could also be not much better than similar, non-organic products. Why would someone keep harmful ingredients in an “organic” product? Because saying your product is organic is a big selling point, and companies want to make sales. Sometimes those harmful ingredients are cheaper, make the product last longer on the shelves or even get you hooked on the product. So, if they can figure out a way to swap in organic versions of their heaviest ingredients, then they might just be able to slap on a USDA Organic sticker and make some more sales.
But we’re not done yet; there are even products that are allowed to state that they are “Made with Organic Ingredients”. And to some, they’d be sold right away by that statement and not even look at the ingredients. But there won’t be a USDA Organic sticker on these products and they only have to have 70% of their ingredients be organic, in order to use that claim. And they are also allowed to pop up to three of their organic ingredients on the front of their label.
They want you to see what’s organic and hope you don’t turn that label around, otherwise they might lose a sale. Don’t do it; don’t turn it over and look at the ingredients! Why? Because then you’ll see what is organic and what isn’t. Usually, on products like these, they will label everything as organic ____ in the ingredients list, but everything that isn’t organic doesn’t get that lovely word in front of it. Does that mean these products are horrible? No; they’re making a step in the right direction, but there are better choices out there. And if a product has less than 70% organic ingredients then all they can do is list what is organic in the ingredients list; there will be nothing mentioned about organic ingredients on the front.
So, if you’re shooting for an organic lifestyle, then be sure to aim for 100% organic food and dig a little deeper into the science behind labeling. And, just so you know, “natural” isn’t the same thing as organic, but that’s a whole different article just waiting to happen. Now you know what’s up when it comes to organic food!