What is Organic Food?
When trying to eat healthy today most people recognize that choosing organic food is a great option. Depending on the particular food you’re looking for, going organic can provide more nutrients, more diversity, better taste and other excellent benefits. In addition, you will be exposed to fewer pesticides, chemicals and alterations to the food.
For food to be considered organic, there is no set list of criteria around the world. Each country has a list of requirements to be listed as organic. There are efforts to help standardize organic foods through the use of certifications.
We should all learn more about what exactly defines organic food. By reading through this page, you will get a better understanding of all the benefits you will enjoy from choosing to eat these foods.
Meaning of Organic
In the US, organic production must be in compliance with the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990 as well as a variety of other regulations. The organic standards cover how food is grown, stored, processed, packaged and how it is transported. For meat products, organic requirements will typically include avoiding hormones and antibiotics as well as giving the animals access to pastures and other natural food sources.
The following are some general guidelines that are accepted in most areas as necessary for being organic:
- Synthetic Chemicals – Using synthetic chemicals as fertilizer, pesticides, antibiotics or additives must be avoided.
- Genetically Modified – Genetically modified seeds or organisms are not considered organic.
- Crop Rotating – Rotating what types of crops are grown in specific areas is not only essential for being organic, but can also help keep the soil healthy for future plantings.
- Distance from non-Organic Foods – Since crops are pollinated naturally in most cases, organic food must be grown far enough away from non-organic food to avoid cross-contamination.
- Years without Chemicals – If a farm wants to begin growing organic food, they must certify that there have been no non-approved chemicals used for a period of time (typically three years)
- Inspections – In almost all countries, organic farms must submit to regular inspections in order to main their certified organic status.
The USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) is a leading food inspection and certification agency in America. The USDA has been leading the way in helping to identify what foods whether foods are organic or not. Most foods sold in America today will either have the label that says, “USDA ORGANIC” or “CERTIFIED ORGANIC” clearly marked.
For food to be labeled organic, most ingredients must be 95% or more organic. This percentage is surprising to many people who think that Certified Organic products must be 100% organic. If you’re looking to eat exclusively organic foods, you’ll need to look for labels that specifically say “100% Organic.”
Finally, some labels say something to the effect of, “MADE WITH ORGANIC” which simply means that they contain at least 70% organic ingredients. The remaining 30% of the product does not have to be organic, though there are some limitations on what processing or additives can be included.
So, for those who are just getting started with eating organic, these labels can make it far easier to make the right choices. Some people worry that food manufacturers may just use the labels without actually complying with the requirements, but that doesn’t happen often. There are penalties (up to $11,000 for using a USDA Organic label without actually being organic) that producers can face. While labeling is not always perfect, it is one of the best ways to choose organic while shopping.
Choosing Organic Foods
Just a decade ago it was very difficult for health-conscious individuals to shop for organic foods because of poor labeling and terrible selection. Today, most supermarkets have sections exclusively used for organic foods, and there are even some specialty stores that offer only organic products.
As more and more people are learning that eating organic whenever possible is essential for an overall healthy diet, things will almost certainly continue to improve. If you’re just getting started with choosing organic foods, make sure you accept that it will likely take a little longer to do your shopping until you get used to the change. With dedication, you’ll find that it can be easier in the long run and of course it is much healthier for you and your family.