BERKELEY (KCBS) – Organic products have become far more common since the USDA National Organic Standards were fully implemented a decade ago, but consumers don’t always understand what’s inside a product labeled organic.
The March 2012 issue of the UC Berkeley Wellness Letter does a wonderful job of clarifying what the various organic labels signify, and dispels some common misperceptions about what those labels imply.
KCBS Food And Wine Editor Narsai David:
First, a product labeled 100 percent organic means every ingredient is organic, while if the label simply says organic, then at least 95 percent of the ingredients are organic.
If at least 70 percent of the ingredients are organic, then the label can use the term organic ingredients but cannot carry the USDA Organic Seal. Products that use less organic ingredients cannot use the term organic on the front of the package, but they are allowed to list any organic ingredients.
There are some common misunderstandings about organic food, most notably around its nutrition value and the use of pesticides.
While many people believe organic foods are more nutritious, the data doesn’t support the idea. And contrary to popular belief, some organic foods do have pesticide residues.
The organic seal does not mean the food inside the package is pesticide free. Botanical pesticides derived from plants are a mainstay of organic production, and those residues may wind up in the final product.
Several synthetic substances are also approved for use in organic farming and production. Even so, there is a lot less of the bad stuff than in non-organic products.
Narsai David is the KCBS Food and Wine Editor. He has been a successful restaurateur, chef, TV host, and columnist in the Bay Area spanning four decades. You can hear him Saturdays at 10:53am, 12:53pm and 4:53pm, and at 2:53am Sunday on KCBS All News 740AM and 106.9FM.
(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)