Kayla Slater, Columnist
As people become more aware of health and nutrition, buying “organic,” “natural”, and “locally grown” foods has become increasingly popular. Even though these products provide benefits for one’s health and the environment, these terms have become marketing tools. Producers use these key to catch consumers’ eye and mislead them to buy their products.
A food product labeled “organic” must follow the USDA regulations and standards to use the “organic” seal. This means the product must be at least 95 percent organic (limited amount of pesticides). However, this does not mean all foods without the seal are not organic. The USDA does not regulate the “all natural” label (except for meat and dairy), which means many retailers use this label to attract customers. Natural means, “caused by nature”, but requires no clear definition or standards exist for labeling foods. “Locally grown” has gained popularity among consumers. Local food products mean the food did not come from out-of-state or the country.
Even though these terms have become marketing tools to attract consumers, buying organic, all natural and local provides many benefits. Organic foods limit the amount of pesticides used during growth. Certain amounts of pesticides may harm one’s health, but unfortunately the food system does not regulate the amount of pesticides very closely. Since pesticides are linked to cancer, brain development, hormone disruptions, Autism and Parkinson’s disease, many people choose to buy organic for health purposes. All natural products such as vegetables and fruits are nutritionally better because they do not have processed ingredients. Buying local produce from a farmer’s market benefits local farmers and also helps the local economy and the environment. Also, local produce is usually much cheaper.
What’s best? Organic? All natural? Local? Instead of labels that are visually appealing, you should focus more on the ingredients. What is the product made of and where did it come from? Always look at the ingredient label before you buy something. Nutritionally, focus more on eating less processed foods (chips, cookies, granola bars, prepared entrees, etc.) and more fresh fruits and vegetables. To help your local economy and environment, buy local when you can.
If you want to buy organic and local foods, www.eatwellguide.org lists many local and organic food suppliers in your area. Oneonta and Cooperstown offer farmer’s markets during the summer and fall seasons. Frog Pond in Bainbridge, 30 minutes from Oneonta, offers a wide variety of fresh fruits and vegetables. Also, Annuto’s Farm Stand and the Green Earth in downtown Oneonta offer fresh local and organic produce.