6 Ways to Verify if Your Food is Really Organic
A Readers Contribution by Sienna Walker
Whether you’re a dedicated “clean-eater,” or just dabbling in trying to make healthier choices, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the marketing and labelling of food items. Trying to sort through nutrition labels, ingredients lists, and certifications on products can be a full-time job. Here are some ways that you can be sure that the food you are eating is organic, no matter what the label says.
You know the 4-digit number that they punch in when they ring up produce? Organics have a 5-digit code. It’s quite simply the number “9” in front of the regular 4-digit code. Banana’s, which are regularly #4011, will be labelled #94011 if they are organic. These PLU codes are an international standard, so it doesn’t matter where you go, this is a sure way to tell. Watch out for any products that contain an “8” in front, as these mean they are GMO’s and have nothing to do with being organic.
Most industrialized countries today have standards for organic foods. There are different agencies with slightly varying standards in most countries. IN the US, it’s the USDA that regulates organic foods. In Australia, it’s the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF). While the regulations are set by these government entities, the certification standards are generally enforced by other organizations. A quick internet search can reveal the different certifying organizations that are accredited by the government regulators. You’ll want to make sure that the products you purchase carry one of these seals, or your product may not be certified organic.
Grow it Yourself
Perhaps the best way to ensure that food you are eating is truly organic is to grow it yourself. That way, you’ll know exactly is in or on your produce. Growing your own food is both rewarding and practical; it can save you money. You can start small, with just some container gardening on your patio, or you can scale up by purchasing a plot of land to start cultivating yourself.
Ask to See Certification Paperwork
Each certified grower will be given official paperwork that certifies them as an organic grower by one of the organizations previously mentioned. Most will be more than happy to provide you with that information if you ask, simply as a matter of pride. If anyone gives you the run-around about showing you their certification, you might want to shop elsewhere. You can also go directly to the certifier to search for a list of licensed and certified producers of organic products.
Farmer’s markets can be hit or miss. If you are familiar with a local farm, or if they have a good reputation, you may do well to purchase from a farmer’s market. The produce and items that you find may be significantly cheaper than in a grocery store, but it can often be difficult to tell if the farming practices are truly organic. Many small farms will use a practice of growing organically unless or until something goes wrong, rather than treating preventatively like most conventional growers. They will use terms like “grown with organic practices” or “organically grown.” These can be misleading, so it’s best to ask for certification or verification.
Even conventional grocery stores now offer many organic certified products. Most of them have strict standards for what they will allow in the “organic” section of the market. You can usually contact the retailer directly to find out what their process is for selecting organic produce. That way, you can feel confident that anything found in the “organic” section of the store truly is organic.
Familiarizing yourself with the certification seals and regulations can be your best bet for simplifying your organic shopping. Once you know which seals and labels you can trust, you can weed out misleading terminology and labelling quickly, simply by looking for those familiar seals and PLU codes.
About the author:
Sienna Walker is a traveller and a healthy food enthusiast, occasionally sharing her thoughts and ideas with others. With her unquenchable love for blogging, Sienna is currently supporting Aubiz. Feel free to find her on her twitter.