How to know if your "organic" food is truly organic

The word “organic” seems to be a household term these days. People are becoming more aware of what they’re putting into their bodies, and seeking out wholesome foods is a natural part of that awareness. I am not the only person who understands this as is evident by the over-abundance of food products bearing the mark of organic filling grocery store shelves today. Food marketers are highly aware that consumers currently believe that organic foods are innately lower in fat, higher in fiber, and better tasting. This was recently substantiated by the results of a study performed by a graduate student at Cornell University, Jenny Wan-chan Lee.

In the study, participants were asked to blindly sample food that was, varyingly, labeled organic. After tasting the product, the participants were asked to comment on its taste and perceived nutritional value. Overwhelmingly, people rated the “organic” food as better tasting and better for you. The hitch in the study? All of the foods were completely the same, the organic labels were placed on products at random. So, Katherine, what does all this mean? Well…

It means that we’re spending our hard-earned money on products that we may be falsely believing are better for us. Take, for instance, the USDA Organic label. If a product bears this stamp, it certifies that a minimum of 95% of the products’ ingredients are organic. For instance, a product stamped by both QAI (Quality Assurance International) and USDA as organic meets the USDA requirements of the USDA National Organic Program. Inside All food products labeled as organic are required to be certified by a USDA organic certifier. If all else fails, check out Consumer Reports eco-labels. The website will search any product you input and report back to you a detail of what’s inside.

Consumers today need to be sly and choosy. Marketers are constantly researching the things that make people dig into their wallets and purchase their product over everyone else’s. It’s important to arm yourself with knowledge and buy products that you believe in and support. Local farmers markets (Saturdays in St Pete!) are a good place to source your products if you’re looking to be certain of where your food comes from. By buying directly from the farmer, consumers can find out all they need to know about the products without having a middle-man marketer muck the process up. At the end of the day, the choices we make about what we eat are decided by a long list of factors and the organic option is relatively new to the table. Just as with Apple products, you never really want to buy the first generation, or “new” products because it’s only a matter of time before Steve Jobs releases the updated and improved edition. Organic food is going through its “new” phase with the general public and it’s only a matter of time before the option becomes more accessible and easier to understand.

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