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Organic vs Non Organic Food

By Liz Cornell, RD

Why do consumers buy organic foods?

Most people choose organic because they want to avoid pesticides, hormones and other chemicals used in conventional farming—and they are willing to pay a little more for that reassurance.

It is always important to know what is in the foods that we consume on a regular basis. The summer season brings plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables for consumers to enjoy. Some of this produce is labeled as organic, which can be confusing for people to decide whether to spend the extra money on it or buy the non organic version. When a food is labeled “100% Organic”, it means that 100% of the ingredients used are certified organic by the USDA. If the label only reads “Organic”, then only 95% of the ingredients are actually organic, while the remaining 5% are not organic. Another common label seen on many food items is “Made with Organic Ingredients”, which means that as little as 70% of the ingredients used are organic. It is very important to read the labels carefully so you know whether the product you are buying is actually 100% organic or not.


When the term organic is used to describe a food, there are many requirements that must be met before this label can be applied. For instance, the product has not been treated with pesticides, antibiotics, or growth hormones; it has not been irradiated or genetically modified; the animals have access to the outdoors and have been fed organic feed for at least a year. Without all of these requirements in place, the product cannot be labeled as organic in any way.


There is a list of foods known as the “dirty dozen” that the consumer would benefit the most from buying organically because they have the highest amount of pesticides in them. The foods on this list include apples, cherries, grapes (imported from Chili), nectarines, peaches, pears, raspberries, strawberries, bell peppers, celery, potatoes, and spinach. Other foods that are recommended to buy organic if available include milk, beef and poultry. All other foods have much less pesticide residue on them and do not pose as big of a risk. In general, organic food does cost more. However, it may be worth the extra money when it comes to ensuring that the food you eat is safe and healthy for you.