What is "Organic" Food?
Medical Author: Melissa Conrad Stoppler, MD
Medical Editor: Jay W. Marks, MD
Have you ever wondered why certain foods are classified
as "organic?" According to surveys, over half of Americans have purchased
products in recent years. Since October 21, 2002, any food that is sold in the
U.S. - whether produced locally or imported - must meet specific standards
defined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to carry the label
Organic foods are grown and processed differently than regular foods. The
USDA definition of organic food states that:
Organic food is produced by farmers who emphasize the
use of renewable resources and the conservation of soil and water to enhance
environmental quality for future generations. Organic meat, poultry, eggs, and
dairy products come from animals that are given no antibiotics or growth
hormones. Organic food is produced without using most conventional pesticides;
fertilizers made with synthetic ingredients or sewage sludge; bioengineering;
or ionizing radiation.
Before a product can be labeled "organic," a Government-approved certifier
inspects the farm where the food is grown to make sure the farmer is following
all the rules necessary to meet USDA organic standards. Companies that handle or
process organic food before it gets to your local supermarket or restaurant must
be certified, too.