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Entries in Organic Foods (4)

Monday
Sep032012

Organics Safer, No More Nutritious Than Conventional Foods

Ablestock.com/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Like iPods and skinny jeans, organic food is trendy. Even in this cash-strapped economy, more than 70 percent of consumers buy organic food occasionally and nearly one quarter of Americans buy it every week, according to the market research firm the Hartman Group. Considering organic is often priced up to 50 percent more than conventional foods, you have to wonder: Is it really worth the extra cost?

A new Stanford study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine aimed to answer that question by sifting through 237 published studies comparing organics to conventional foods. Organics, they found, might not be more nutritious but will likely lower your exposure to pesticides and dangerous bacteria.

Conventional and organic produce scored equally on vitamin and mineral content. Only one nutrient — phosphorus — was significantly higher in organic versus conventionally grown produce. There was no difference in protein or fat content between organic and conventional milk, though evidence from a few studies suggested that organic milk may contain significantly higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids.

"Some believe that organic food is always healthier and more nutritious," said lead author Dr. Crystal Smith-Spangler. "We were a little surprised that we didn't find that."

Chemical Contaminants

Crops bearing the USDA organic seal of approval are raised without synthetic pesticides, petroleum-based fertilizers, or sewage sludge. Organic animals must be fed organic feed free of antibiotics or growth hormones. Anything labeled organic can't be genetically engineered or treated with radiation to prolong shelf life.

Sticking with organic chicken and pork appeared to limit exposure to antibiotic-resistant bacteria, which some experts warn may be contributing to the rise of hard-to-treat infections in humans. However, not all the organic produce tested was 100 percent pesticide free. While they were 30 percent less likely to have traces of chemicals than conventional fruits and vegetables, Spangler-Smith says that the pesticide levels of all foods fell within allowable safety limits.

But the review didn't gauge the possible long-term effects of pesticide exposure. None of the studies lasted longer than two years – and some lasted as few as two days.

"The risk of a diet without fruits and vegetables is greater to a person's health than the risks posed by pesticide residues," said Dr. Sonya Lunder, a senior research analyst for the non-profit Environmental Working Group, in Washington, D.C. "However, for certain populations, most notably pregnant women, young children and the elderly, eating foods with high levels of synthetic pesticides could, over time, cause health problems."

For babies in the womb and young children, Lunder speculates that the most serious risks of long-term pesticide exposure could likely be impaired brain and nervous system development, leading to diminished IQ and ADHD in young children or small birth weight and early births for newborns. In the only study in the review that measured pesticide levels in people, they plummeted to undetectable levels in children on the days they ate organic foods.

The authors concede the paper has other shortcomings as well. Most of the studies they included looked at general "produce" or "meat" categories in the diet. Smith-Spangler said she would have liked to offer head-to-head comparisons for specific food items -- for instance, conventional versus organic plums. Also, since most people in the studies ate a mix of organic and conventional foods, it's nearly impossible to say which health benefits are definitely linked to eating organic.

A Greener Choice

Beyond the wallet and personal health, there are lots of reasons consumers may want to choose organic.

"The advantages to consumers in buying organic are both personal—lowering risk—and societal—less environmental impact from the growing of the food. Organic food represents a distinct choice for the food buyer. Do you want to support the conventional system, which relies on intensive fertilizer and pesticide use, or not? Your local organic farmer is the alternative," said Russell Libby, the executive director of the Maine Organic Farmers and Growers Association, the oldest and largest state organic organization in the country.

Organics don't have to strain the pocketbook either. Libby said consumers can buy organic directly from farmers, at farmers' markets and farm stands at prices that are often competitive with supermarket prices.

So the bottom line? Not all conventionally grown foods contain residue nor are organics always the more virtuous choice. A good rule of thumb: Skin can protect the fruit or vegetable from any pesticide exposure so when the outside can be peeled away, it may not be worth spending the extra cash for organic.

The Environmental Working Group publishes an annual list of "Dirty Dozen" and "Clean" lists of conventional fruits and vegetables. This year apples topped the dirty list with 98 percent of apples containing pesticides, while onions were named the cleanest.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Feb162012

Arsenic Found in Organic Foods Sweetened with Brown Rice

Zoonar/ThinkstockUPDATE: The toddler formulas that are implicated in Thursday's study have been identified as Baby’s Only Organic Dairy Toddler Formula and Baby’s Only Organic Soy Toddler Formula.  Both are made by Nature's One.

[ CLICK HERE TO READ THE COMPANY'S RESPONSE ]

(HANOVER, N.H.) -- If you're shopping organic and see brown rice syrup listed first among ingredients, you may want to think twice. That product could have high levels of potentially toxic arsenic, Dartmouth researchers reported on Thursday.

A team led by environmental chemist Brian P. Jackson found what Jackson called "dangerous" amounts of arsenic in organic powdered toddler formula whose top ingredient was brown rice syrup.  That formula contained six times more arsenic than the Environmental Protection Agency considers safe for the water supply.

Jackson and his colleagues also reported elevated arsenic levels in some brown rice-sweetened cereal bars, energy bars and energy "shots" consumed by endurance athletes, according to a study published Thursday in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives. The results, which do not identify any products by name, follow recent reports about trace levels of arsenic in apple juice and previous reports of arsenic in rice.

Given that organic brown rice syrup, "may introduce significant concentrations of arsenic to an individual's diet," the researchers saw "an urgent need for regulatory limits on arsenic in food."  Dietary sources of arsenic represent "potentially a big public health issue that has not been taken on board," Jackson told ABC News.

The Food and Drug Administration has been sampling and testing a variety of "more conventional" rice products, including rice crackers and rice cereals, "to evaluate what the risk is and what the levels are in these products" said Siobhan DeLancey, a spokeswoman for the agency's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition.

Depending on what the testing reveals, she said there was "a possibility" that the agency would set a threshold for arsenic levels in rice.  The FDA previously set a "level of concern" of 23 parts per billion of arsenic for fruit juices, the only other food to have such a designated level.  The EPA standard for arsenic in drinking water is 10 ppb.

"The bottom line is this shows there's a need for FDA to figure out some limits on this and put that out there," said Patty Lovera, assistant director of Food and Water Watch, a consumer advocacy group in Washington, D.C.  She said FDA needs to take a broader approach toward arsenic in what we eat, rather than going "food by food."´╗┐

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Apr102011

Study: People Prefer Foods Labeled 'Organic'

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- As consumers, we like to feel good about the food that we purchase, and that’s why we’ll very often gravitate toward products labeled “organic,” even if we have to pay more for them.

A new study by researchers at Cornell University suggests that people perceive foods with an “organic” label as being lower in fat, higher in fiber, and more nutritious overall than their “non-organic” counterparts.

Nearly 150 participants were asked to compare identical foods that were labeled as either “regular” or “organic.” They were instructed to rate the food for different attributes, such as taste and perception of fat.

Preliminary data showed that those surveyed preferred organically-labeled foods for almost all taste characteristics, and also perceived them to be lower in calories. Additionally, participants said they would be willing to pay more for the “organic” foods than the “regular” items.

Low fat nutrition labels and some fast food restaurants that claim to be healthy have in past studies been shown to mislead customers into underestimating a product’s true calorie count, prompting people to overeat and feel less guilty as they do so.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
Apr082011

Organic vs. Nonorganic: What Fruits and Veggies Should You Buy?

Brand X Pictures / Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- We all know that pesticides and other chemicals can cling to the foods we eat and most of us want to minimize our exposure. That's why some people buy organic. Scientists have shown that children age 5 and under, ingest an average of eight pesticides each day. And young children, whose internal organs and systems are developing rapidly, are particularly vulnerable to pesticides' harmful effects.

The best foods to buy organic are apples, bell peppers, carrots, celery and strawberries. And while there are many reasons to buy organic foods, not everyone can find fresh organic produce at their corner store, or afford the premium price tags, so it's important to remember that there are some smart shopping decisions we can make that will help us save money while also reducing the pesticides on our plates.

Organic is not the only option for people that want to reduce the amount of pesticides they consume. There are fruits and vegetables that are known for having very low pesticide residues – spring favorites like asparagus, avocado, sweet peas, grapefruit, onions and cabbage – and onions, avocado, sweet corn, pineapple and mango are generally regarded as some of the cleanest fruits and vegetables year-round.

Steps you can take to keep pesticides off your plate include always washing and peeling your produce, steam cooking leafy greens and giving the frozen organic version a try when the produce you want isn't available fresh.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio´╗┐







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