Food + DrinkHealth + Wellness

10 THINGS YOU (PROBABLY) DIDN’T KNOW ABOUT ORGANIC FOOD

Organic food is everywhere these days; from farmers’ markets to the supermarket, it is possible to pick up food and drink grown and manufactured in the organic way. But how much do you really know about what goes into (or doesn’t go into) producing organic goods? These 10 facts may just surprise you.

by Lisamarie Lamb

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1. Organic is not a new concept

Although it may seem as though organic food has only been around for a few years, it’s not a new concept by any means. In fact, before the Second World War, every crop that was grown and harvested in the UK was organic, since no chemicals were used at all. However, the war left many a scar, and the farming industry was called upon to produce more and more food for both the war effort and for afterwards, when the country needed to get back on its feet. The easiest and most effective way to do that was to start using chemicals and pesticides to increase harvests and save as much of the crop as possible from rodents and insects.

2. It’s good for the young

Some people benefit far more from eating and drinking organic produce than others. These include pregnant women (and their babies), and young children. This is because studies have shown that pesticides – even at low levels – can seriously harm these groups, and could possibly lead to lower IQs (but studies are ongoing regarding this).

3. It might not be local

For many, the word ‘organic’ equates to locally produced food and drink, but that’s not necessarily so. Produce that is labelled organic has been grown without pesticides or chemicals, but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t travelled many thousands of miles to get to the shops. It is always worth checking the label if you prefer to buy local.

4. You can’t make standard food organic

If you buy non-organic food and rinse it well under the tap, you won’t be washing away the chemicals that were used to grow or produce it. These will be deep inside the meat, fruit, or vegetables, and cannot be washed away. However, rinsing food – organic or otherwise – is still a good idea; it may not remove chemicals, but it will remove dirt and bacteria that could make you ill.

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5. Conventional farming can’t last

If you yearn for the days when everything was organic (even if there was no special term for it back then), you might be in luck; today’s conventional farming methods are just not sustainable, as pests become tolerant to each new chemical that is created. Stronger pesticides are made, but the stronger the chemicals, the worse it is for the soil, and eventually it will mean that nothing can be grown there at all. In which case, it will be organic food that is produced in the biggest quantities, until eventually that is all there is. However, if this does happen then worldwide hunger and malnutrition will increase, since organic methods produce far less food than conventional ones.

6. Everything can be organic

Food might be the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word ‘organic’, but pretty much everything can be made from organic materials, at least in part. Clothing, furniture, paper, cosmetics, flowers and much more can be made from organic fibres, and therefore certified organic.

7. Pesticides are possible

Just because something is organic, it doesn’t mean it hasn’t been treated with some kind of pesticide. It probably has, otherwise, with the number of bugs and grubs around it wouldn’t have made it to your kitchen in the first place. However, the pesticides used on organic food have to be certified as non-synthetic, or the food itself can’t be labelled organic.

8. Know your stuff

If you are not buying organic, you might like to know that apples, celery, peaches, strawberries, spinach, grapes, lettuce, cucumbers, kale, blueberries, peppers and potatoes contain the highest levels of pesticides, whereas onions, sweetcorn, avocados, asparagus, aubergine, sweet potatoes and mushrooms have the lowest levels. Milk, however, has been shown to contain the same amount of contaminants, whether it is organically or conventionally produced. Whether or not milk is pasteurised is a much more important issue.

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9. Organic fish does not exist

There is simply no such thing as organic fish, at least not if it comes direct from the sea. There is in fact an EU directive that says that nothing caught or harvested from the wild can have an organic label – and that makes sense, as it is impossible to know the history behind the specific creature that is captured without resorting to expensive tests. Farmed fish can potentially be called organic, but only if the water they are kept in is treated, and not exposed to the outside world.

10. 100% organic vs. organic vs. made with organic ingredients

Checking the labels of the things you buy is an important part of ensuring you are getting exactly what you want – as long as you know what the labels all mean. Something that is labelled as 100% organic will have no non-organic components in it, but something labelled as simply organic can have up to 5% of its components that are non-organic (this doesn’t include salt and water). A label that states ‘Made with Organic Ingredients’ will mean that the product contains at least 70% of organic components.

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