Organic Food: Questions and Answers

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Have you ever heard the term Organic? With the growing popularity of organically grown food, many people have questions of what organic means. Organic is a term used to describe the way food is grown, handled, and processed. It does not describe the quality or safety of a product. Organic food is certified by the National Organic Program under the USDA. Like non organic foods, organic foods must meet certain standards before being sold to the public.

What makes a food Organic?

Organic fruits and vegetables are produced without the use of common pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, and without being genetically altered. Meat and poultry can only be called organic if they are fed 100% organic feed, are not given hormones or antibiotics, and are given access to the outdoors.

How are Organic foods Labeled?

The USDA sets national standards for organic foods, whether they are grown in the United States or imported. Since 2002, all food labeled “Organic” has met these standards. This is a legal label, so you know what you are buying is truly organic.

  • “100% Organic”- Must contain only organically produced ingredients. (except for salt and water)
  • “Organic”- 95% of ingredients must be organic, the other 5% must be chosen from a list of nationally approved products.
  • “Made with Organic ingredients” – Must contain at least 70% of organically produced ingredients.
  • Other terms that are not regulated or considered Organic are – “Natural”, “Free-range”, and “Hormone free”

The USDA seal may appear on the package or on the display, such as fruit and vegetable displays. The seal may only be used for products with at least 95% organic ingredients.

Why have Organic foods grown in popularity?

There are many reasons people choose to buy organic products. The highest percentage of organic foods sold is fruits and vegetables. These are grown by farmers who emphasize the use of renewable resources, conservation of soil and water, and do not use common pesticides.

Some people buy organic food to reduce the environmental impact of pesticides and fertilizers, supporting the preservation of soil and water quality. These farms are typically small, family run operations. Buying organic foods helps to support these farmers. It also saves energy that the large corporate farms use in their operations.

Is Organic food healthier?

Scientific evidence shows that Organic food is not nutritionally superior, safer, or more healthful than non-organic foods. Organic foods are different from conventional foods only in the way they are grown and processed.

The Bottom Line

The most important piece of information to remember about fruits and vegetables, is that they are a vital part of your diet and lifestyle. A healthy diet includes at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables a day. Organic produce can cost much more than non-organic. This is because it takes more effort on the part of the farmer, and without the use of pesticides, they yield is less. This higher price can make it hard for people who want to eat organic to get the amounts of fruits and vegetables they need to eat a well-balanced diet.

Whether your food is produced organically or not, is not as important as getting the right amount of nutrients. The vitamins and minerals in produce are important to overall health and disease prevention.


Information from: American Dietetic Association,; United States Department of Agriculture,; Agricultural Marketing Services, Nutrition Education for SEPTEMBER 2007. Produced by Meals on Wheels,Inc. of Tarrant County by Ashley Netting, Nutrition Intern, and Marissa Needles, Nutrition Intern, for Sherry Simon, R.D/L.D. For questions regarding nutrition education contact: Sherry Simon, R.D./L.D., Director of Nutrition Services for Meals On Wheels, Inc. of Tarrant County at 817-336-0912 or email: Website: 

Posted in Nutritional Education.

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