Earning the organic label


Meaning behind food term

WILKES-BARRE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) – The goal of grocery shopping is to buy the best possible food for your family at the best price. So how does food labeling factor into the equation?

One word we hear a lot of at the grocery store is organic but what exactly does it mean? Eyewitness News Healthbeat Reporter Mark Hiller asked that very question and got some insightful answers.

Signs and labels can be confusing so when grocery shopper Fred Armbruster was asked what organic means to him, the Wilkes-Barre man replied “Not a whole lot. Organic to me meant organic chemistry which is carbon compounds, methane and all that other stuff.”

But the term organic at the supermarket actually means quite a bit according to Wilkes University Registered Dietitian Dana Manning, Pharm.D., R.D., LDN. “Any food that carries the organic label really should be certified by the National Organic Program which is a federal program that oversees both the production and the inputs of all types of foods.”

The organic label may show up on produce, animal products like dairy and eggs and even some processed items. Fruits and veggies that bear the organic label must be grown without the use of synthetic pesticides and fertilizer. But not all food that makes the organic claim is created equal. Dr. Manning said, “If there’s a combination food so a food that has multiple ingredients, if it’s labeled organic at least 95 percent of those ingredients need to be organically produced themselves.”

And if the label says ‘made with organic products’, 70 percent of those products are required to be produced by organic methods according to Dr. Manning. Not only is the organic label earned, but also is enforced. “If for instance the production is not conforming to the organic standards the producers can get fines or maybe have their certification revoked.”

But organic should not be confused with natural or all natural. When Mr. Armbruster asked if he knew what those terms are supposed to mean he said, “Nope.” Dr. Manning says classifying food as natural is merely a marketing strategy. “The word natural actually has no defined meaning.” Something to consider before you hit the checkout counter.

Dr. Manning says most scientific studies do not show a significant nutritional difference between organic and non-organic food. She says while some may show slightly higher concentrations of antioxidants and vitamins, there’s no scientific proof it will actually make you healthier.

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