How to Read a Food Label
Here's how to make sense of those tricky food-labeling terms
Is 'Organic' Better?
The term "organic" has been one you can trust since 2002, when the
U.S. Department of Agriculture established strict criteria for products
claiming this distinction. Products declared organic must be produced without
conventional pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, biotechnology, or ionizing
radiation. "Organic" animals must be fed organic feed and not be
injected with hormones or antibiotics.
But is organic food really better than conventional foods? Not necessarily.
It depends on a number of factors, such as growing conditions, how the foods
are stored, and which nutrients you're looking for.
Organic foods have the same number of calories, fats, proteins and
carbohydrates as their conventional counterparts. Their nutritional composition
depends on the soil, climate, growing conditions, and the amount of time it
took to get it from farm to table.
Eating a freshly picked piece of produce, organically grown or not, is the
ultimate in good nutrition as time has the greatest impact on food quality.
Certain fruits and vegetables grown without chemical pesticides may have higher
levels of antioxidants. But there is not a striking difference in the
nutritional quality of organic products vs. conventionally grown ones. The real
question: Is organic produce worth the extra cost? Some people are adamant
about having pesticide-free produce. I have seen the ravages of insect
infestation and think pesticides are necessary to provide good crop yield. My
strategy is to wash all produce carefully and enjoy the bounty of produce at a
Keep in mind that the Environmental Protection Agency sets acceptable levels
of pesticide residue for produce that are much higher than what is generally
found on the foods we buy. The decision is yours.