Organic labels don’t indicate healthier food

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By: Lexi Muir <[email protected]>

In recent years, consuming organic foods has become so popular that some experts are calling it a fad. According to the CNN article “The Organic Debate: Healthy or not?” in the past decade sales of organics have surged more than 20 percent, and according to the Food Marketing Institute, more than half of Americans are now choosing to buy organic foods over conventional foods.

Common grocery stores are even opening up new sections for people who are shopping strictly for organic items. Organic foods seem to be sweeping across the nation. So the big question: is going organic really healthier?

According to that same article, the a common misconception may be the reason behind this increase in the organic market. Many people think that organic foods are much healthier and safer than conventionally produced food because the producers do not use chemicals, fertilizers, pesticides, growth hormones or antibiotics that conventional foods do.

When the word “organic” is written on a label, it signifies that the food is produced while only using natural means of fertilization, the most common being pathogen-laden manure. Despite the thought that this is healthier, using manure as a fertilizer actually poses a higher risk of food borne-illnesses than conventional foods. This could also mean a greater production of toxins, one of them being aflatoxin which is highly carcinogenic, or cancer producing.

The USDA also claims that organic foods are no safer or more nutritious than conventionally-produced food. They say that most organic foods, including milk, butter and ice cream are the exact same as their conventional equivalents in both their amount of fat and calories. Going organic in no way means having a less-fattening diet, which is the belief of many organic consumers today.

Along with the fact that organic foods are no better in terms of calories and fat, the USDA also claims that they can be less safe than conventional foods. In October of 2002, the USDA’s undersecretary for food safety warned that the lack of preservatives in organic foods makes them more vulnerable to bacteria and parasites than conventional foods.

They also have the potential for greater pathogen contamination than conventionally produced foods and are eight times more likely to be recalled for safety problems, which include bacterial contamination and mislabeling.

Along with lacking health value in comparison to conventionally produced food, organic food is also more expensive for its consumers. Companies have to sell organics for higher prices because the yields are an average of 10 to 20 percent lower than conventional foods.

This price is driven up by not only the popularity of organics but also the high production costs. The cost is also higher because farmers have to weed some crops, like onions and carrots, by hand because they cannot use common chemicals that conventional production does. It costs more for this manual labor than it does to simply spray on a fertilizer as most other farmers do.
Another problem with going organic is that it is much harder to locate the products in grocery stores compared to the conventionally-produced food, which lines most shelves. Even though most grocery stores have organic sections, they are limited in their variety of foods that they sell.
In order to find a complete variety of organic foods, consumers must seek out stores like Wild Oats or Trader Joe’s which can be harder to find than your everyday Marsh and Meijer stores.
Instinct may say organic foods are healthier; however, there are other issues that need to be considered. Ironically, consumers go to the organic market in order to stay away from dangerous toxins that could harm their health, but this research proves that organics can do just as much harm to a person’s body.
Is the benefit of organically produced food really worth the cost? Is the inconvenience of trying to find an organic consumer market really worth the food, or are conventionally produced items simpler, easier and safer?