Thursday, March 05, 2009

'Organic' does not necessarily mean 'safe'

The national outbreak of salmonella from organic peanut products from Georgia and Texas has many wondering what exactly does "organic" mean. "Although the rules governing organic food require health inspections and pest-management plans, organic certification technically has nothing to do with food safety," reports Kim Severson and Andrew Martin of The New York Times. This may be somewhat of a shock for many shoppers who spend more to buy organic thinking they are making a safer food choice.

The Department of Agriculture is responsible for certifying foods as organic. To accomplish this they deputize "as official certifiers dozens of organizations, companies and, in some cases, state workers," write Severson and Martin. "These certifiers, then, are paid by the farmers and manufacturers they are inspecting to certify that the standards have been met. Depending on several factors, the fee can be hundreds or thousands of dollars."

In the case of the Georgia plants, a private certifier took nearly seven months to make the recommendation that the USDA revoke the plant's organic certification. "Some shoppers want food that was grown locally, harvested from animals that were treated humanely or produced by workers who were paid a fair wage," add Severson and Martin. "The organic label doesn’t mean any of that." (Read more)

1 comment:

donald said...

Now I didn't read the rest of the article because of this blasted outdated computer of mine so I apologize in advance if I bring up topics which were addressed. I have a love hate relationship with the organic certification process but for the most part hate it. Because of the fact that "organic" seems to be en vogue, small farms decide to follow through the absurd amount of time and effort to become certified. Not to mention the annual fee which is a pretty penny to family owned farms. I respect both, those who are and are not certified. Typically they both weigh the issue and decide whether or not it will increase sales. As for the larger industrial organic for the most part i would not define it as sustainable, another buzz term these days. But I guess it all boils down to the consumer, how educated they are on the subject and where do their morals lie. Is it just the organic label they are looking for or more, such as supporting the local economy, supporting sustainable agriculture which enriches the earth (some would disagree believing farming to be unsustainable in general, mostly permaculturalists)? The whole organic craze has been a step in the right direction in educating consumers but for the most part (i've worked in large natural food stores and am currently a farmer so i have some experience) it's black and white with them. One can try to explain that a piece of produce is organically grown but cannot be marketed as such because the farm isn't certified, and for the most part that's a big turn off. Anyways, good post.