The truth

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					                                                                   The truth
                                                                   about organics
 As consumer demand for organic food and drink grows rapidly, there has been much debate regarding the
 benefits of these products. Bouquet set out to distill the facts from the fiery arguments from both proponents
 and opponents of the organic movement.

                he market for organic produce     David Wolstenholme, Exhibition Director of
                is expanding rapidly, with some   the Natural & Organic Products Show, notes          Is free-range the same as
                estimates pegging this grow th    that a European Union study found that              organic?
                at 30% per annum. Behind          organically grown and processed foods are           NO. Free-range refers to animals
this popularity, there are some compelling        more nutritious than conventionally grown           that are free to roam. However, the
reasons.                                          foods and they will improve your health and         animals may be treated with veterinary
                                                  longevity. He also provides further insights        medicines and the food provided may
The first is the general trend towards            why choosing organic in the most common             contain additives.
“green” and more natural products that has        food categories makes sense.
permeated every aspect of our lives. As Go                                                         Maintaining a balanced view
Organic explains, organic is “about producing     •	 Milk	&	Dairy:	Antibiotics,	artificial	        While the case for going organic is certainly
goods that work in harmony with, and not             hormones and pesticides are used in           compelling for its natural and environmentally-
against, nature. The aim is to eradicate the         the commercial dairy industry. Milk from      friendly characteristics, there is evidence that
use of harmful chemicals by making effective         organically certified herds has up to 90%     it may not have superior nutritional or health
use of nature’s natural resources.” Organic          more antioxidants.                            benefits, and this should be considered in
farming uses environmentally friendly farming     •	 Meat:	Non-organic	meats	and	chicken	          the interest of making an informed consumer
practices to protect soil health, natural            have far higher concentrations of             choice.
ecosystems, water quality and wild life, while       pesticides than all fruit and vegetables.
practising good animal welfare, including a          Organic meat and chicken have no              The Star newspaper recently [28 May 2010]
free range lifestyle.                                traces of grow th hormones.                   reported on a study by the independent,
                                                  •	 Vegetables:	Organic	vegetables	contain	       government-funded Berlin-based consumer
The second reason is the trend towards               more than 40% more oxidants and               watchdog group Stiftung Warentest - one
healthier lifestyles. Many consumers are             higher levels of beneficial minerals like     of the most respected consumer groups in
looking for alternatives that are free from          iron and zinc.                                Europe. Based on 85 investigations over eight
colourants, preservatives and other additives.    •	 Fruit:	Organic	fruit	contains	more	than	      years, it concluded that processed and packet
The average non-organic fruit can carry              40% more oxidants than conventionally         organic food products have no health, taste
traces of 20 or more pesticides, even after          grown produce.                                or nutritional advantages over conventionally
washing. Pesticides in food have been                                                              manufactured or harvested food.
linked to many diseases including cancer,         The third compelling reason for the
obesity, Altzheimer’s, neurological damage,       popularity of organic food is that, as most      This follows similar study results in 2009,
reproductive problems and some birth              proponents of organic food will tell you,        commissioned by Britain’s Food Standards
defects. Organic food can be described as         organic food just tastes so much better.         Agency	(FSA)	and	published	in	the	American	
crops and animals produced and fed with           There is no doubt that a growing number          Journal of Clinical Nutrition, in which
natural food and without the use of chemical      of consumers in South Africa and across          researchers at the London School of Hygiene
additives.                                        the globe agree. In addition, many top           and	Tropical	Medicine	(LSHTM)	found	a	small	
                                                  restaurants use only organic produce, for the    number of differences in nutrient content
   Organic produce is:                            same reason.                                     between organically and conventionally-
   •	 chemical	free	                                                                               produced crops and livestock, but concluded
   •	 hormone	and	grow th	stimulant	free	         The way organic food is packed for delivery      that these were unlikely to be of any public
   •	 higher	in	vitamin	content	                  is part of the stringent organic certification   health relevance.
   •	 GM	(genetically	modified)	free              process. To reduce any possibility of
   •	 more	flavoursome                            contamination, organic food is sealed before     The Food Advisory Consumer Service
   Source: Go organic                             it leaves the farm so that it maintains its      (FACS)	-	South	Africa’s	independent	food	
                                                  organic status until it reaches the consumer.    and nutrition consumer service which aims to

28 BOUQUET I Junie-Julie 2010
provide consumers with information on food          traces of pesticides. Organic is also not
and nutrition issues which is both relevant         necessarily healthy. For instance, saturated    Where to buy
and scientifically correct, also confirms that      fat found in organic cheese has the same        Particularly given the food safety
there is no credible evidence to show that          cholesterol-raising effects as that in cheese   issues raised by FACS, it is important to
organic food is safer or more nutritious than       produced from non-organic milk. The             purchase organic foods from reputable
conventionally produced food.                       stimulant and diuretic effect of caffeine,      suppliers.
                                                    whether from organic coffee beans or
“Because organic food is produced without           from conventionally farmed coffee beans,        The Pick ‘n Pay organic range offers
the use of artificial fertilisers, pesticides,      remains identical.                              products have been independently
grow th regulators and livestock feed                                                               certified as organic and as food safe.
additives, it is likely to contain lower residues   In addition, organic produce is more            At Pick ‘n Pay “organic” means the
of agricultural chemicals than conventionally       costly, for a number of reasons, including      products contain no artificial food
farmed food, but due to environmental               the labour-intensive farming methods            additives or chemicals; no synthetic
pollution, organic products cannot be               and the cost of the certification process.      pesticides, herbicides or fertilisers; and
completely free of residues,” says FACS.            While organic farming aims to minimise          no	genetically	modified	(GM)	ingredients	
“The term ‘ rganic’ describes the method of         damage to the environment, it should also       or products. It also means that the
cultivation, rather than specific characteristics   be remembered that all sectors of the food      products have not been subjected to
of the food. The flavour, nutritional content       industry are obliged to conform to food         irradiation and meet standards outlined
and health aspects of organic foods cannot          safety standards and good manufacturing         by the European Union, the USA or
be superior to conventionally grown foods, as       practices aimed at minimising pollution and     Japan.
the scientific evidence shows.”                     environmental damage.
                                                                                                    Woolworth’s range of organic products
Consumer issues                                     Certainly, organic foods have one irrefutable   includes more than 100 new grocery
FACS further suggests that when making a            advantage for consumers who prefer              lines. The company says: “In line with
choice between organic food and drinks and          GM-free foods: it provides an alternative to    our Good Business journey, our organic
non-organic options, three issues should be         foods produced using of biotechnology.          farmers subscribe to the principles of
considered.                                                                                         building soil fertility, minimising damage
                                                    Making the right choice                         to the environment, working with rather
1. Food safety                                      Thus, organic foods offer some compelling       than against natural systems and
The use of animal waste as fertiliser is a major    benefits, but there are some considerations     respecting animal welfare.”
source of disease-causing micro-organism            consumers should take cognisance of
contamination and of possible contamination         before making their decisions. Despite this,    In addition to these national retailers,
of water sources. More extensive insect             the reality is that choosing organic is a       there are a fast growing number of
damage to organic plants may result in              lifestyle preference of a growing number of     companies specialising in organic food.
mould grow th and toxin production, which           people. Choosing to join the organic trend      Google “organic food” for directories
can cause food poisoning. Thorough                  is a personal decision, but what is perhaps     or visit the Natural & Organic Products
cooking and washing prior to eating organic         more important is to make sure that what        Show to discover the world of organic.
food is essential, as is the management of          you are buying is indeed organic.
composting and manure application.
                                                    FACS explains that for a product to be
[It should be noted that manure is often                    o
                                                    called ‘ rganic’, the food must comply
used as fertiliser by conventional farmers,         with the standards specific to organic
too. In the case of certified organic farming,      agriculture, from production and packaging
the manure is composted for at least three          to transport and distribution. The South
months before use and the fertilisation             African Department of Agriculture is in
methods are strictly regulated according to         the process of compiling legislation to
the stringent certification process. – Ed]          govern organic foods. In the meantime,
                                                    most organic produce is grown in line
2. Nutritional contribution                         with international regulations governed         For more information on organic
Researchers have confirmed that organic             by the International Federation of Organic      food, visit these websites:
foods contain the same nutrients, in the same       Agricultural	Movements	(IFOAM)	and	all	         •	 Go	Organic	
amounts, as their non-organic counterparts.         farmers have to be certified by international      w w
Additionally, the responsible application of        bodies such as Ecocert or the British Soil      •	 Natural	&	Organic	Products	Show	
biotechnology used in conventional farming          Association.                                       w w
can significantly increase the nutrient density                                                     •	 Food	Advisory	Consumer	Service	
of many foods.                                         Thus, every true organic product                (FACS)	
                                                       carries an official certification number        w w
3. Health benefits                                     on the back of its packaging. Be sure        •	 Woolworths	
Scientific evidence indicates that the health          to look for this number for complete            w w
risks associated with disease-causing                  confidence that the product is indeed        •	 Pick	‘n	Pay	
pathogens are far greater than the negligible          organic.                                        w w
health risks associated with ingesting

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