Sep 14, 2007
Organic Food: Worth the Money?
Pondering the purchase of organic foods? A story in Consumer Reports spells out which organic items are worth buying -- and which aren't.
Here is the list, which appears in the magazine's February edition:
Organic items worth buying as often as possible: Apples, baby food, bell peppers, celery, cherries, dairy, eggs, imported grapes, meat, nectarines, peaches, pears, poultry, potatoes, red raspberries, spinach, and strawberries.
Organic items worth buying if money is no object: Asparagus, avocados, bananas, bread, broccoli, cauliflower, cereals, sweet corn, kiwi, mangos, oils, onions, papaya, pasta, pineapples, potato chips, and sweet peas. Also included are packaged products such as canned vegetables and dried fruit.
Organic items not worth buying: Seafood and cosmetics.
Expect to pay more for organic foods, which are more labor-intensive to grow and don't get government subsidies, states the article.
When Consumer Reports drew up those lists, they considered government standards for organic foods and residues of pesticides, antibiotics, or hormones used in raising nonorganic foods. The article doesn't focus on environmental issues.
Why did seafood and cosmetics fare poorly?
Consumer Reports notes that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) hasn't set standards for organic seafood, and wild and farmed seafood can be labeled "organic" even if they contain contaminants such as mercury and PCBs.
As for cosmetics, the article states that products typically contain a mix of ingredients that didn't necessarily come from organic agriculture.
What About Cost?
Organic foods are often more expensive than nonorganic foods. "On average, you'll pay 50% extra for organic food, but you can easily end up shelling out 100% more, especially for milk and meat," states Consumer Reports.
The article offers these ideas to cut costs of organic foods:
- Comparison shop
- Buy locally produced organic foods (check farmers' markets)
- Buy a share in a community-supported organic farm to get a regular supply of seasonal organic produce
- Order by mail
Consumer Reports also recommends checking that fresh organic fruits and vegetables aren't placed too close to nonorganic produce in grocery stores, since misting could let pesticide residue run.
The magazine article mentions a study in which after switching to an organic diet. The researchers tracked pesticide exposure, not the kids' health.
The web site of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) states that while pesticides carry some risks, especially for babies and kids, strict rules protect people from being exposed to too much pesticide residue.
The Consumer Reports article mentions concerns that widespread use of antibiotics in conventionally raised animals may spawn drug resistance and that synthetic growth hormones (which are banned for poultry and any organically raised animals) could cause cancer or speed up puberty for girls.
Those fears don't hold water, critics say.
The National Dairy Council's web site states that "American milk and dairy products are among the safest and most highly regulated foods in the world" and that milk from hormone-treated cows has repeatedly been shown to be "safe for human consumption."
The U.S. market for organic foods has skyrocketed in recent years and is expected to more than double by 2009, states Consumer Reports.
Meanwhile, government standards for organic foods have been hotly contested. Here's Consumer Reports' guide to label lingo:
- "100% organic": No synthetic ingredients are allowed by law.
- "Organic": At least 95% of ingredients are organically produced.
- "Made with Organic Ingredients": At least 70% of ingredients are organic; the other 30% are from a list approved by the USDA.
- "Free-range" or "free-roaming": Animals had an undetermined amount of daily outdoor access. This label does not provide much information about the product.
- "Natural" or "All Natural": Doesn't mean organic. No standard definition, except for meat and poultry products, which may not contain any artificial flavoring, colors, chemical preservatives, or synthetic ingredients. Claims aren't checked.
Oct 23, 2006
Good food, wicked food: Take the quiz and find out your nutrition IQ
The Sacramento Bee
About 30 percent to 40 percent of all cancers are related to our lifestyle choices, including the foods we eat, how much exercise we get and how well we watch our weight. Are you making the right choices? Here's a quiz based on a report on cancer prevention from the American Institute for Cancer Research.
1. Exercise helps prevent colon cancer. True or false?
2. A plant-based diet of vegetables, fruits, whole grains and beans seems to decrease colorectal cancer risk. True or false?
3. A diet high in red meat, processed meat and fat in- creases colorectal cancer risk. True or false?
4. Fiber may reduce the colon's exposure to cancer-causing substances by moving wastes out quickly. True or false?
5. Vitamin supplements help prevent cancer. True or false?
6. A diet high in salt has no effect on cancer risk. True or false?
7. Overweight and obesity has no effect on cancer risk. True or false?
8. Grilled foods cause cancer. True or false?
9. Green tea may have anti-cancer benefits. True or false?
10. All berries, particularly strawberries and raspberries, are especially rich in a substance called ellagic acid, which has shown the ability to prevent cancers of the skin, bladder, lung, esophagus and breast in laboratory studies. True or false?
Answers: 1) T. Exercise speeds the movement of food through the intestine and decreases bile and acid secretion. 2) T; 3) T; 4) T; 5) F; 6) F. Diets containing a large amount of salted fish (such as those in Asian countries) increase the risk of stomach cancer. 7) F. Research shows that obesity is not only a risk for diabetes and heart disease but also for several types of cancers. 8) T. Research shows that exposing meats to direct flame, smoke and intense heat can cause the formation of carcinogens. 9) T. In laboratory studies, green tea has been shown to slow or completely prevent cancer development in colon, liver, breast and prostate cells. 10) T. This phytochemical acts as an antioxidant; it helps the body deactivate specific carcinogens, and it helps slow the reproduction of cancer cells.
Source: American Institute for Cancer Research, www.aicr.org
Oct 23, 2006 8:42am
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