Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Fear and Food Choice


Molly Morgan, RD, CDN in Healthy Life explains about taking the fear out of your food choices and learning more about organic and local foods.

It has been described that many consumers have expressed their concern about the potentially hazardous health effects from exposure to pesticides, hormones, and antibiotics in the food supply by putting their money where their mouths are.  Even during the hardships of our current state of the economy, consumers are willing to spend extra money on organic foods.

Are organic foods better for us?  Are they more nutritious? Are they safer to eat than conventional farming methods?  Do small local farms operate just like large conventional farms? All of these questions are making consumers more confused than ever.

For over 50 years, family-operated farms have been replaced by large-scale farming and livestock operations.  This increase in agricultural productivity has also coincided with the routine use of pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, antibiotics, and hormones.

Recent studies suggest that pesticides, particularly organophosphate insecticides and other pollutants are linked to ADHD, obesity, diabetes, and learning disorders.  More research is still being conducted in this area.

Eating organic foods is the best way to reduce exposure to toxins used in conventional agricultural practices.  Organic farmers do not use chemical pesticides or fertilizers made with synthetic ingredients or sewage sludge.  They don’t use any bioengineering methods or ionizing radiation.  Instead, organic farmers rely on beneficial insects, companion planting, and natural soil replenishment.

Many are familiar with the green and white organic seal.  This seal assures us that food items have met stringent USDA Standards and passed inspections.  Please note:  packages labeled with random terms such as free range, hormone free or natural, are not the same as certified organic.

Also, consumers should realize that even though a product bears the green and which organic seal, it does not mean that it is safe or healthy.  These products could still be loaded with organic sugar or organic fat or they could be contaminated with dangerous bacteria.

The organic seal reassures consumers that their food dollar is promoting sustainable farming methods, that the produce they purchase is likely to contain lower levels of pesticide residues; and that the organic meat and poultry that they consume will have been raised without hormones or antibiotics.

At this point in time, these foods are not guaranteed to be safer, healthier or even more nutritious than conventional foods.  While many people believe that organic produce is more flavorful and some will argue that it is more nutritious, that’s hard to find conclusive evidence.

Although, it is important to note that many organic farmers use older, more nutritious varieties of seeds, in this case it may not be the organic process, but the heirloom vegetable that makes the difference.

The take away is this:  Don’t let the fear of pesticides reduce your pleasurable consumption of health-promoting fruits and vegetables.  Minimize your families exposure and maximize your budget by purchasing your groceries from small local farmers, food co-ops, or by joining a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA.)

When our food is purchased locally, the food dollars stay within and strengthen the local economy.  Buying locally also reduces the resources used to transport, store, and package goods.  Local foods nourish us, the community and the planet.

Many small local farmers may practice organic, sustainable methods although they may not have the official certification, which is due to financial or time constraints.  View websites such as the following:  http://www.eatwellguide.com to find farmers, CSA’s, restaurants and other local sources of organic products.

Enjoy healthy and happy eating!


  1. I LOVED this post, you know why? Well, it's basically my research!! I did a study to determine the predictors of whether an RD will teach their clients/patients about fresh vegetable food safety. I found at that the positive attitudes regarding teaching and organic vegetables significantly predicted whether they teach fresh vegetable food safety. In other words, those RDs who believe that teaching will cause their clients/patients to purchase organic fresh vegetables, and who believed that organic vegetables were important, were more lieky to teach the information. It's a complicated and somewhat difficult concept to grasp, but overall it looks like organic foods are becomming more and more important to RDs, and consumers. I've actually beed reading alot about the health of soil, and how that impacts the amount of pathogens in the produce. Organic soil seems to be quite helpful! I read Today's Dietitian a lot and they have been publishing many articles on organic fresh produce.

  2. Gina, thank you so much for your kind comments on this post. I'm glad you liked it and found this very interesting, too. I believe that Today's Dietitian is one of the forerunner's, which I like to read, as well.

    Again, thanks for taking the time to read the post and to share your thoughts.

    All the best,