Organic Food -- Is 'Natural' Worth the Extra Cost?
12 organic foods that are worth the expense -- and 12 that probably aren't.
Organic Food and Your Health
The USDA makes no claims that organic foods are safer, healthier, or more
nutritious than conventional foods. There is also little research on the health
outcomes of people who eat primarily organic diets.
Government limits do establish the safe amount of pesticides that can be
used in growing and processing foods, and the amount of pesticide residue
allowable on foods.
According to the EPA web site, because kids' immune systems are not fully
developed, they may be at greater risk from some pesticides than adults. The
web site also notes that the 1996 Food Quality Protection Act set tougher
standards to protect infants and children from pesticide risks.
The Price of Buying Organic Food
Just how much more expensive is it to go organic? You can expect to pay
50%-100% more for organic foods. That's because, in general, it is more
labor-intensive, and without the help of pesticides, the yield is not always as
To maximize your organic food dollar, the Environmental Working Group, a
nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C., recommends going organic on
the "dirty dozen" -- types of produce that are most susceptible to
- Sweet bell peppers
- Grapes (imported)
And which organic produce is probably not worth the added expense? The group
lists these 12 items as having the least pesticide residues:
- Sweet peas (frozen)
- Sweet corn (frozen)
You can help keep costs down by shopping for sale items, comparing prices,
buying locally grown products either at farmers' markets or via a co-op. The
sale of organic foods in large grocery store chains is also likely to help keep
prices down in the long run.
Reduce Pesticide Residues
Whether or not you buy organic, you can do your part to reduce pesticide
residues on foods with the following tips:
- Wash and scrub produce under streaming water to remove dirt, bacteria and
surface pesticide residues, even produce with inedible skins such as
cantaloupe. Do not use soap.
- Remove the peel from fruits and vegetables.
- Remove the outer leaves of leafy vegetables.
- Trim visible fat and skin from meat and poultry because pesticide residues
can collect in fat.
- Eat a variety of foods from different sources.
- Join a co-op farm that supports community agriculture.