The Origins of Organic Foods

Organic produce is one of the fastest growing food retail sectors in the United States. Some health problems, such as BSE and foot-and-mouth disease, as well as the fears of GM crops/food and synthetic dyes and ingredients, have led to considerable growth in the organic and healthy food market as worried consumers seek out more healthy and natural products.

     Recently, there was research done by market analysts, nVision, which suggests that four out of ten adults choose organic options on a regular basis now. Organic supermarkets in England are booming; in the meantime, Europe’s biggest organic event, the BioFach exhibition in Germany in getting bigger and bigger every year.

     Unfortunately, retailers are charging artificially higher prices than before. Last week, a rare occurrence happened as I was shopping; I was suprised when I saw the prices being charged for organic yogurt and eggs compared to the non-organic brands. It is time to start investigating these organic suppliers and supermarkets to see who is ripping us off! Encouraging competition is not always a good idea, as this can drive down prices (good for the consumer) which can put organic suppliers out of business if they have small profit margins. I understand that we have to pay more for organic produce: because there are more crop failures due to the fact that the farmers cannot use pesticides, but what is an acceptable percentage and does this vary from product to product? Should organic fish be 10 percent more expensive than non organic fish, etc?

     Once only available in small health shops or farmers markets, organic foods are becoming much more widely available now. In the past decade, sales of organic food in the UK have increased over 10-fold from 100m in 1993 and 1994 to nearly 1.4bn in 2004 and 2005. This large growth is predicted to continue, and many companies are jumping into this market. Sales through farmers markets and farm shops have grown faster than any other retail outlet. Organic foods and drinks now accounts for 1.2 percent of the total retail market (Source Soil Association).

There are two types of organic foods:

Fresh food

Fresh food is seasonal and perishable. Vegetables and fruits are the most available type of organic, fresh food, and are closely associated with organic farming. They are often purchased directly from growers, at farmers markets, supermarkets, or through special food stores. Organic meat, eggs, dairy are also available.

Processed Food

Processed food accounts for most of the items in a supermarket. Often, within the same store, both organic and conventional versions of products are available, and the price of the organic version is usually higher, as already mentioned. Most processed organic food comes from larger companies producing and marketing products like organic baby food, organic beer, organic pasta, or other convenience foods.

How do I know it is organic food?

The term organic is defined by law – all organic food production and processing is governed by a strict set of rules. Look for symbols such as the Soil Association symbol for your guarantee of the highest organic standards. The Soil Association organic symbol is the UK’s largest and most recognizable trademark for organic produce. Wherever you see it, you can be sure that the food you have purchased has been produced and processed according to strict and rigorous animal welfare and environmental standards. Other symbols to look out for include the Organic Food Federation and Certified Organic Ingredients.

Most people do not have enough time to read the labels of all the different food products that they buy to check for organic ingredients. So look for the various symbols and you can then be sure that the product complies with minimum standards.

The use of such symbols is entirely optional and a product can still be organic even though if it does not carry the symbol of a certifying body. That means if you want to be 100% satisfied that what you are eating or using is organic always read the label or speak to the vendor.

Where you will find the symbol?

Look out for organic symbols on almost any kind of food and drink you can think of from fresh produce like fruit, vegetables and meat to processed foods such as bread or baby food. You can even buy organic pet food!

                                                                                                                                     Ziye Ma

Work consulted

Ruiz, Rebacca. “Organic Food – Behind The Hype”. 20 August, 2009. Web. 06 November, 2011. http://www.forbes.com/2009/08/20/organic-foods-facts-lifestyle-health-organic-products.html

“Organic Foods”. Web. 06 Novermber, 2011. http://www.medindia.net/patients/patientinfo/organicfood_types.htm

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