Going organic

Defining Organic

The “USDA Organic” label (green seal) may appear on processed and fresh packaged foods. Here’s how to decipher the label terms:

  • 100% organic—Contains only organic ingredients. May display the USDA seal.
  • Organic—Contains at least 95% organic ingredients by weight. May also display the USDA seal.
  • Made with organic ingredients—Contains at least 70% organic ingredients by weight. Cannot use USDA seal.
  • Some organic ingredients—Contains less than 70% organic ingredients. May list them separately, but can’t be labeled organic on the front of the package.

Organic Has a Bright Future

According to the Organic Trade Association, the organic industry will continue to grow and thrive at a steady rate over the next 20 years, but at a slower pace than the current 20% average annual sales growth.

Other findings from recent surveys of the OTA’s research partners show that:

  • The average consumer household in 2025 will contain at least one, if not many, organic products on a regular basis. This includes not only food items but organic clothing, household cleaning products and personal care items.
  • All organizations agree that by 2025, organic products will be sold anywhere and everywhere. Increased sales in restaurants were mentioned by more than one as a trend that will continue to 2025.
  • The overall increase in organic sales and acceptance should also translate into increased organic acreage.
  • Younger shoppers will continue to find organic food of interest, especially as Gen-Xers pass down their belief systems. Ethnic  shoppers, including Asian-Americans and Hispanic-Americans will also continue to be more likely organic shoppers, in proportion to their representation in the population.
  • Government support of organic agriculture will be crucial to maintain the industry’s growth potential. The OTA feels that the U.S. government needs to support farmers in their transition to organic production, and must continue to enforce the standards to minimize consumer confusion.

10 tips to reduce exposure to pesticides

  1. When possible, purchase foods labeled “USDA organic” (usually have less pesticide residues than conventional foods).
  2. Choose domestically grown and, if possible, locally grown produce in season.
  3. Select foods free of dirt, cuts, insect holes, decay and mold. Avoid perfect-looking produce.
  4. Discard outer leaves of leafy greens like lettuce. Trim celery tops and leaves.
  5. Select produce with thick skins, husks or hulls like bananas, melons, citrus fruits and corn. It’s harder for pesticides to permeate them.
  6. Peel fruits and vegetables to remove some pesticide residues, dirt and bacteria. (The draw back is peeling also removes some nutrients like dietary fiber.)
  7. Scrub fruits and vegetables with edible skins (e.g., potatoes, carrots) and waxes (e.g., apples, cucumbers) with a hard brush. Wash well with cold tap water. Don’t soak or rinse with liquid detergent, since it leaves soap residue. (Note: Wax is harmless. It seals in moisture and prevents bruising and spoilage.)
  8. Cook or bake foods to reduce pesticide residues. Canning, freezing or drying fruits and vegetables can also decrease residues.
  9. Since pesticides concentrate in animal fat, trim fat and skin from meat, fish and poultry before cooking. Grill or broil foods, and drain pan drippings.
  10. Offer a variety of fruits and vegetables daily to reduce exposure to any single pesticide.

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