To Eat or Not To Eat Organically

When you see a product labeled as “USDA Organic” (Europe: Euro Leaf seal) it means the product complies with the following governmental regulations: treated without chemical fertilizers, pesticides, hormones, antibiotics and GMO feeds.  In June of this year, the U.S. and European Union will finally consider each other’s organic standards as equivalent (meaning, additional organic product options will be available on either side of the pond).  But don’t spring for organic “just because.”  (a) Does the product have the USDA or European Organic Seal of approval? (Otherwise it is not organic). (b) Is the food a “dirty dozen” food or a “clean 15” (Splurge on the dirty not the clean).  Bottom line: not a good idea to draw the conclusion that we MUST eat organic OR ELSE.  The benefit of eating a non-organic food greatly outweighs the risk of any pesticide exposure (and best to eat non-organic than not at all).  Visit the Full Engagement Center to learn some more tips.

What is the “dirty dozen” and “clean 15”?

The “dirty dozen” list of foods is considered to have the most pesticide residue (tough to clean off the fruit, and therefore, worth purchasing organic varieties). On the other hand, don’t splurge on the “clean 15,” (these foods are not exposed and/or do not retain high levels of pesticide on their skin).  The clean 15 are those whose skin we typically need to peel.

Regardless of whether it is “clean” or “dirty,” hopefully you know you still need to wash your produce before eating it (e.g., if you ate a mushroom before cleaning, your mouth would be caked with dirt!).

Here are the lists:

What about eggs, meat, dairy and fish?

Eggs, meat and dairy: spring for organic!

The sick ones: mainstream varieties of eggs, meat and dairy are classically known for being treated with hormones and antibiotics.  These animals eat genetically modified feed and are fat creatures.  Sick animals don’t have strong muscles, and some are too weak to stand — so weak that they wallow in their own feces.  The Agricultural Department has had to to reject “Downer Cows” (those who fell over from being so sick) from our food system, since it poses major public health and food-borne illness risks.

The organic animal products: lean, healthy animals are known to eat organic feeds, are not treated with hormones and antibiotics, and have able bodies.

Fish: there is no such thing as an “organic” fish

When a fish is labeled as “organic,” it really means “farmed.”  Farmed is okay some of the time, wild is okay some of the time – it really depends on the fish.  Best not to look for the term “organic,” but find out if the fish is healthy, low in mercury and sustainable.  How to know which seafood to buy and avoid:

(1)   Go to the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch site (an unaffiliated non-profit that helps consumers make sound choices)

(2)   Click on seafood recommendations

(3)   Download the mobile guide or print out (a nifty) pocket guide (trust me, it is super helpful when at a restaurant and deciding between fish!)

References

http://www.ewg.org/foodnews

http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2012/02/15/146893021/coming-soon-to-your-grocery-aisle-organic-food-from-europe?ft=1&f=1053

http://www.montereybayaquarium.org/cr/seafoodwatch.aspx

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