Going organic

Buying & serving organic foods helps the environment, but are they safer to eat? Are they healthier or more nutritious?

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), organic foods account for only 2% of the U.S. market. But the market has been rapidly growing—as much as 20% annually nationwide over the past decade.

The Organic Trade Association (OTA) reports organic products now total more than $10 billion in annual consumer sales. However, organic foods can cost 10% to 100% more than conventional foods. Are they worth it?

Organic standards: In 2002, USDA set national standards for domestic and imported foods to be certified “organic” based on how they are grown or raised. The regulations prohibit use of most synthetic pesticides and fertilizers for at least three years before harvest of organic crops. Organic does not mean pesticide-free, since natural (e.g., sulfur, copper, plant extracts) and some synthetic pesticides are still allowed.

Use of irradiation, genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and sewage sludge (for fertilizer) for crops, and growth hormone and antibiotics for farm animals, is prohibited. Livestock must be raised on 100% organic (pesticide-free) feed and have access to the outdoors.

There are no “organic” standards for fish. Be careful—seafood marked organic may be farmed and contain contaminants like mercury.

Organic farming uses methods and materials that have a low impact on the environment by conserving water and oil, recycling animal waste, releasing fewer chemicals (creating less pollution), improving soil fertility (creating less erosion), promoting crop diversity (crop rotation), and protecting farm workers, wildlife and livestock from potentially harmful pesticides (e.g., using biological pest control like beneficial insects).

Food safety: Organic foods do not guarantee safety or purity. These foods can be spoiled or contaminated with bacteria like E. coli or salmonella that can cause illness or death. Proper food handling and thorough cooking are just as essential for organic foods like meats and eggs as for conventional foods. Organic produce must be washed well.

Organic products packaged without preservatives will spoil faster. Refrigerate and/or use them quickly. Freeze organic meats cured without nitrates or nitrites.

Studies show organic foods contain less pesticide residues than conventional foods, yet there may be residues from chemicals used years before. Also, cross-contamination may occur from synthetic pesticides carried by wind, rain, ground water or soil from other farms. Low residue levels pose minimal health risk. The health benefits of eating a variety of fruits and vegetables (either organically or conventionally grown) daily outweigh the potential risks of pesticides.

The Environmental Working Group (EWG), a public watchdog and promoter of organic foods, recommends buying organic (due to high pesticide residues in non-organic) for the following 12 fruits and vegetables: apples, bell peppers, celery, cherries, imported grapes, nectarines, peaches, pears, potatoes, red raspberries, spinach and strawberries.

Nutritional value: Organic crops compare favorably in taste and appearance to conventional crops. But research shows organic foods may not be nutritionally superior or healthier than conventional foods. Processed organic foods (e.g., candy, soda, crackers, desserts, snacks, cereals and frozen dinners) may still be high in calories, fat and sugar and low in fiber.

For example, although organic potato chips don’t contain unhealthy trans fats or many food additives, they still are not nutritious.

Plants can’t distinguish between organic and synthetic fertilizers. Fertilizers must be broken down to nurture crops. Nutrient content depends on many other factors including plant genetics, variety and maturity, climate, soil quality, growing region, handling and storage methods. Locally grown produce may be fresher and more nutritious than food shipped cross-country.

Some studies show organic produce contains more high-quality protein, minerals, Vitamin C and phytochemicals (plant substances that may help prevent diseases like cancer and heart disease) such as lycopene (e.g., tomatoes) and phenols (e.g., strawberries, corn). Organic crops may also contain fewer nitrates, which can be toxic if consumed in excessive amounts.

More From FoodService Director

Menu Development
spicy bibimbop

Bowls continue to trend as meal carriers for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Both operators and the guests they feed appreciate bowls for their convenience, customizability and creative combinations. Build-your-own stations are increasingly popular ways to offer bowls in college dining, corporate venues and school and hospital cafeterias. But building a satisfying bowl takes more planning than randomly tossing ingredients together in one vessel.

Playing with layering

“Texture is the secret ingredient for a successful bowl,” says Kevin Cecilio, senior director of culinary innovations...

Industry News & Opinion

Austin Independent School District in Texas is introducing new globally influenced menu items this school year, Spectrum News reports.

The offerings are meant to reflect the district’s diverse student body and will include yuca fries, Jamaican meat pies and plantains.

Read the full story via spectrumlocalnews.com .

Industry News & Opinion

Miami-Dade County Public Schools is introducing new plant-based menu items this school year, CBS Miami reports.

Vegan chili and cilantro-lime rice will be appearing on menus when students at the Miami district return to class later this month.

The new plant-based offerings join other new items such as French toast, turkey bacon and antibiotic-free chicken tenders and breast fillets. Students will also be able to enjoy a variety of salads and fresh fruit.

Read the full story via miami.cbslocal.com .

Ideas and Innovation
baby boomer eating

Millennials get a lot of attention from foodservice operators and chefs, but baby boomers make up a large and lucrative group of potential patrons that shouldn’t be ignored, finds Technomic’s 2018 Generational Consumer Trend Report . As more senior-living communities cater to the baby boomer set , here’s a look at the factors that drive those customers’ dining choices.

1. Boomers are flavor-seekers

There’s a perception that because these consumers are older, they are stuck in their ways. But this generation is the most likely to say that they enjoy trying new flavors from time to...

FSD Resources

Code for Asynchronous jQuery Munchkin Tracking Code