Organic, Natural and Health have all become “buzz” words and it can be confusing when you are trying to choose the best options for you and your family.
It is important to be aware of what these terms mean and how they can be used in labelling produce.
If anything is labelled organic is should to have a certification logo on it – for the UK the Soil Association Logo, for Europe the logo is green with a leaf made up of stars and in the USA it is USDA organic – The use of the logo and correct labelling is obligatory for all organic pre-packaged food. If it does not contain an organic certification label then it is not organic.
Organic farming differs from conventional farming in the methods used to grow crops. Conventional farming uses over 500 different types of chemicals where as Organic farming has about 25 approved chemicals that can be used. Conventional famers apply chemical fertilizers to the soil to grow their crops, these chemical fertilisers destroy the minerals in the soil, which in turn reduces the mineral content of the crops grown, so not only are the contaminated with chemicals they lack nutrients. They use insecticides to get rid of insects and disease and synthetic herbicides to control weed growth. Conventionally grown food is often tainted with chemical residues that can be harmful to humans. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) considers 60 percent of herbicides, 90 percent of fungicides and 30 percent of insecticides to be carcinogenic. There may be some debate about this but my philosophy is “if in doubt, don’t” and when it comes to my health I want to make the best choices I can and reduce my toxic exposure.
Pesticides have many negative influences on our health, including neurotoxicity, disrupting hormones and suppressing our immune system. It can also affect reproductive function and has been linked to miscarriages in women.
In contrast, organic farmers feed and build the soil with natural fertilizers, they use natural methods such as insect predators, barriers and companion planting to get rid of insects and prevent disease and they use crop rotation, tillage, hand weeding and mulches to control weeds.
Natural can be a very misleading label as it can depend on the manufacturers use of the term, for instance at the very extremes urine and faces are “natural” but you would not want those appearing in any products you bought or used. However on the other end of the scale water and minerals are natural, sea salt is natural. So it is important to know the manufactures understand how and where they source their produce and raw materials from – are they using raw materials that occur naturally in nature or are they using “natural” in the very loosest meaning of the word. Foods produced using genetic engineering or foods containing high fructose corn syrup can also be labelled natural – this does mean that they are healthy.
Health foods is another tricky label, I see many food in the health foods aisle of the supermarket or in health food stores that I would not consider “healthy”, General claims about benefits to overall good health, such as “healthy” or “good for you”, are only allowed if accompanied by an approved claim. This means that these claims must be backed up by an explanation of why the food is “healthy”.