Eating organic can be tricky. A lot of companies, especially from the United States, are ‘green washing’ their products. In the case of food, this can mean throwing the word organic on their packaging. This does not mean that the product you are buying, and often paying extra for, is completely organic.
In the case of produce, those little stickers they put on them are really helpful in determining what you are eating. If the product has been genetically modified or is certified organic, it is required to have a distinctive code. In the case of regular produce, you’ll see a four digit code on the sticker that usually starts with the number four. Although this product is not genetically modified, it will definitely have been exposed to pesticides. I still remember some of the codes from the two and a half years I spent in University as a grocery cashier. The first code you learn on your first day is bananas, 4011. Ask anyone who worked as a cashier. He he he.
Genetically modified foods have a five digit code that begins with the number 8 and is five digits long. These foods have changes introduced into their DNA to be bred for largeness, visual appeal and other desirable traits.
This can also be in livestock and scientists are splicing and dicing more genes every day. GM produce is still exposed to pesticides as well. There is a lot of controversy about GMO/GM products and whether or not they are safe.
Organic produce is often indicated in supermarkets, so customers are able to find what they are looking for more easily. If your supermarket does not do so, look for labels that begin with the number 9 and have five digits. This ensures that what you are consuming was raised without pesticides or genetic tampering. Does this mean that it will be completely free of pesticides, guaranteed? Unfortunately, no. The use of harsher pesticides in the past has left a contaminant in the soils of most farms that still carries through today. However, the percentage is much, MUCH lower than if you buy regular produce.
Products like meat, eggs and dairy is a label reading game, too. If it says organic on the label, chances are you are on the right track, but it’s always best to look and make sure that it clarifies the diet and lack of hormone injections, as well as antibiotics, in the livestock. Another tip having to do specifically with eggs, is to look and make sure they were ‘free-range‘ chickens who were never injected with hormones. This means they roamed free and fed of the land, a much healthier way to raise chickens, organic or not. It means they were moving and healthy, not kept in little cages until they were fat enough to slaughter. ‘Free run‘ is a slightly modified version of this where the chickens are kept in a large open barn, allowed outside for a period of the day, but are given boxed nests to make collection easier. They are much cheaper because less collection work is involved and more eggs can be harvested. Either way, make sure the packaging includes the words ‘hormone free’ and ‘antibiotic free’.
So all in all, follow these suggestions.
- look for organic produce labeled with the number 9 followed by four more digits
- look for meats and dairy that have the words hormone free and antibiotics free on the packaging
- look for eggs that were from free range chickens but that also specify hormone and antibiotic free
- for all other products, make sure it clarifies that it is 100% organic, FDA regulations allow the word ‘organic’ on packaging even if it contains genetically modified ingredients
If you are vigilant with your label reading, you can be better assured that you are getting the healthiest foods for your body.
Have you experienced ‘green washing’ in your grocery store purchases, getting home to read the label more carefully and realizing it wasn’t completely truthful?
- Genetically Modified Food Crops (gravitycontrol.org)
- Guest Article: How to Determine If Foods At The Grocery Store Are Genetically Modified (frugalrecipes.wordpress.com)
- Produce Stickers Are Actually Helpful (datewithyourplate.wordpress.com)
- How to Tell if Your Food is Genetically Modified (http://www.naturalnews.com)