Organic Food: Worth the Money?
Magazine Article Lists Organic Items Worthy of Your Shopping Cart
WebMD News Archive
Jan. 10, 2006 -- 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
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
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
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
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
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."