Saturday, November 22, 2014

This Is What You're Paying For When You Buy Organic

More and more of us are willing to fork over cash for foods labeled "organic," but strikingly few of us actually know what organic means, reports Fast Company.

A recent survey from BFG, a brand consultancy, asked 300 people (most of whom were under the age of 35) about their food-shopping habits. Their results showed that about 70% of the respondents were buying something with an "organic" label, but only 20% felt confident they could define the word.

And, we can't really blame them: The world of food labels and their regulation is pretty murky. But, the USDA does have fairly straightforward standards for how these items should be stickered, and strict regulations regarding the required certification process brands need to go through for the privilege of being labeled "organic." In general, organic crops, livestock, and other foods must be able to demonstrate that they're "protecting natural resources, conserving biodiversity, and using only approved substances." That usually includes not using prohibited pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, GMOs, antibiotics, or growth hormones.

However, the different levels of organic labeling in the U.S. do complicate the issue. For instance, "100% organic" is different from just "organic," which is different from "made with organic" and so on. And, while the use of the term "organic" can be regulated to a degree, something like the word "natural" really can't. The FDA says it doesn't have a hard regulatory definition of "natural" when used as a food label, but the term could conceivably be used to denote a product that's free of artificial coloring or flavors.

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