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Wednesday, 12 June 2013

The problem with organic foods

I am a big fan of organic foods as I feel they are both better for me and less harmful to the environment.  If given a choice I will mainly pick something labelled organic over something without that organic labelling.

The problem with organic foods though is that they somehow seem more trustworthy and healthy than foods that aren't labelled organic.  Yes it is true that the ingredients should have been grown without pesticides and fertilisers and so on, however organic labelling does not necessarily equal healthy and it is does not necessarily equal more eco-friendly either.  

Organic foods have added sugar, salt and fat and potential for fraud as with any other type of food sold in the supermarket.  Not only that, although they were grown in an organic way they may still have been tampered with to present them for sale.  For example organic milk can still be homogenised and organic turkey or chicken breasts may look suspiciously plump (although I don't know of any specific known cases where organic poultry has been plumped up for sale).  There is also the problem of the miles they may have travelled and the packaging they are sold in.

I used to think that sugar, fat and salt in moderation were ok and they are ok if you can have them in moderation.  However their addition to so many foodstuffs means that it is really easy to have too much of all three.  Plus if you have been reading my blog you will know that I recently quit sugar after reading an article in the New York Times.  The article indicated that sugar, fat and salt can be addictive and if you are addicted to something it is highly likely you will over consume it.  

There are extra problems with fats and and this article explains in depth why you should never eat vegetable oil or margerine.  Within the article it seems to say palm oil, which is often the added fat of choice in many processed foods is ok as long as you take into account sustainabilty issues.  However it is highly possible that the palm oil could have been extracted by chemical means and processed in some way.  Plus this article from Greenpeace calls into question the validity of claims made about the sustainability of palm oil.  There is also a third reason to be wary of oils - it may say cold pressed extra virgin olive oil on the label on the bottle and be an outright lie - this article in the Guardian provides tips on how to separate the real ones from the fakes!  Just because it says organic on the label, it doesn't make it any more trustworthy!

Foods like honey, oil, flour and other 'raw' ingredients don't always state their exact origin on the label as they are often blended and obtained from a variety of sources.  Sometimes those sources are within the same country and sometimes they are not.  Ultimately the more 'mixing' up of these raw ingredients the less easy it is to trace them back to their original source or sources of origin.  Although it may say fairtrade, organic, cold pressed, sustainable etc on the label if when pressed the company selling the items doesn't know exactly where they came from, how can you be so sure those labels are accurate and that you aren't the victim of  food fraud?  

I'm not saying don't eat organic - it can still be a more eco-friendly option, however be aware that just because it says organic on the label it doesn't mean that all is ok.  To avoid the problems of added sugar, salt and fat try to buy raw ingredients from reputable sources i.e. ones which you can identify exactly where the product came from.

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This has been shared at Waste Not Want Not Wednesday and at Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways, Wednesday Blog Hop

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4 Comments

4 comments:

Hazel said...

I think the fact you can buy organic cola says it all :-)

I also dislike the fact that many organic options are imported across the world- supermarket organic beef is often (usually?) from South America.

I find my shopping is a constant balance between organic, local, unpackaged and affordable. It swings in various directions, but trying to fulfill all of those criteria is difficult.

Eco Thrifty Living said...

Very true Hazel - you are right organic cola does say it all :).

I totally agree trying to fulfill the criteria of organic, local, unpackaged and affordable is not easy!

Poor and Gluten Free said...

I think the same can be said even for products that are part of the GMO-free certification. They can still contain "natural flavors" and unhealthy ingredients. I was recently asked to review a sports drink that the company was proudly advertising as certified GMO free. While I totally respect and appreciate that more companies are going organic and GMO free, a drink that is full of GMO-free sugar is *still* an unhealthy sugar drink in my books ;) As you said, the challenge is navigating priorities and looking for healthy, organic AND local foods.

Thanks for sharing this on Waste Not Want Not Wednesday! I'll be pinning it and featuring it this week and hope to see you back again :)

Eco Thrifty Living said...

That's great, thanks for featuring this Danielle!

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