It is easier now than it has been in decades to make healthier choices at the supermarket. We have seen a monumental increase in the amount of conventional, mainstream corporations jumping on the bandwagon in the past five years. Consumer demand has forced these companies to take notice, and they have stepped in because where there is a growing interest, they respond. They are not supplying organic options because they care; they are providing natural/organic options because it is an exploding market, and they are aware of what the average American is placing in their shopping carts.
According to an annual industry survey in 2008, 69% of U.S. consumers purchased organic products (Hartman Group 2008). Large corporations embracing the organic market is pivotal because local, domestic suppliers and small businesses simply cannot keep up with growing demand. With such growth and demand, the price of organic food will become more affordable as the competition increases and products become more readily available. Organic sales increased from 3.6 billion in 1997 to 21.1 billion in 2008. In 2008 alone, sales of organic products rose 17 percent in spite of a struggling economy, according to a report from the Organic Trade Association. When you combine organic food with the sale of non-food products in 2010, the total is a staggering to $28.682 billion. A big change is happening here! Wal-Mart, the nation’s largest retailer announced not too long ago that it was doubling the number of organic products in hundreds of its stores. Last year, I was thrilled to learn that the A&P was launching its own natural/organic private label (Greenway), along with Trader Joe’s and Safeway.
But does it always have to be organic? When buying packaged goods (versus produce) you can become a label detective. Healthy products will not contain the word artificial or hydrogenated, and they will not contain hormone, antibiotics, artificial sweeteners, or high-fructose corn syrup – to name a few. For the most part, the ingredient list will be understandable, meaning there will not be words that you do not recognize. If you are buying a product that says natural, and it is hormone and antibiotic free and the ingredient list is small, simple and contains only food – it is a better choice even if it does not say “organic” on the label. Also, as mentioned in the previous post, buying from local, sustainable farms is always an appropriate option. Organic is always the best option, but certainly not the only acceptable choice.
Unfortunately, buying organic produce is still very costly, so we need to find ways to limit chemical exposure without breaking the bank. There are certain fruits and vegetables that the bugs just love, and so in order to get them from the field to your table the producers must use a lot of pesticides. These are the ones you need to avoid and substitute with other options or buy organically. They are known as “The Dirty Dozen” and your approach to these foods should be taken very seriously. On the flip side, there are conventionally grown products that are safer to eat because the chemical exposure is limited for various reasons, so you can skip the organic options without a too much concern; they are known as the “Clean 15”. The list at the bottom of this entry – “Dirty Dozen, Clean 15” – taken from the Environmental Working Group (EWG), will help you sort out the choices next time you go to the supermarket. You can visit their website and download a copy of the list for your refrigerator as well as a small fold-up one to keep in your wallet; the link is at the bottom of this post. According to the EWG, consumers can reduce their exposure to pesticides by 80% just by avoiding the most contaminated fruit and vegetables; so pin this guide to your refrigerator and pay close attention when you sit down to make your shopping list.
Always keep in mind that originally, all foods were “organic.” They were grown and prepared without pesticides, chemical fertilizers, hormones or irradiation. Foods were unrefined, whole or minimally processed. Since World War II and the advent of chemical farming and food processing, the soils and foods of much of the world have been depleted of many minerals and nutrients.
Our food options these days, whether of vegetable or animal origin, are not only deficient in nutrients, but also full of pollutants and potentially harmful farming chemicals. The modern process of denaturing foods via heavy refining and chemical treatment deeply affects the life force of our food supply, making it difficult to foster equilibrium and health.
Pesticides, (which have been shown to cause cancer, and liver, kidney and blood diseases) create extra work for the immune system. They lodge and accumulate in tissue, resulting in a weakened immune system, and consequently allow other carcinogens and pathogens to filter into the body and affect our health. Organic certification is the public’s assurance that products have been grown and handled according to strict procedures without persistent toxic chemical inputs.
The bottom line is that public awareness affects not only the health of the population; in the long run it has a positive impact on flow of the market options as well as the price of many organic products available to the consumer.
The Dirty Dozen Clean 15*From the Environmental Working Group website [twocol_one]
The Dirty Dozen
- Sweet Bell Peppers
- Kale/Collard Greens
- Sweet Peas
- Sweet Potatoes
Resources and Links
Dirty Dozen Clean 15
cut out- http://www.ewg.org/foodnews/summary
About the Dirty Dozen
Industry statistics and projected growth
Organic Agriculture: Organic Market Overview
U.S. Market Growth Outpaces Domestic Supply
US: New study: Emerging issues in the U.S. organic industry
US: New study shows that nearly three-quarters of U.S. families buy organic products