December 1, 2011

Organic Labels Made Easy!

Dec 1
I get so many patients coming in to see me that want to eat healthier and want to choose organic products but are confused about the whole process! It’s not really surprising though – shady marketing tricks and sketchy labelling practices have made choosing the right foods to be the most challenging task out there! I’m going to try to simplify it for everyone as best as I can. The first thing to remember is that a product can only make an “organic” claim if it is certified by an accredited Certification Body. If there is no certifying body, it is not certified organic. If you are purchasing your organic products at a farmer’s market, certified organic farmers should have a certificate on display from their Certification Body. So, that’s the first part. Make sure it states that it’s certified organic and there is mention of the Certification Body. Now, this is where it gets a bit tricky:
  • Only products with an organic content greater than or equal to 95% can be labelled as “organic” and have the “organic” logo. Once again, these must be certified and bear the name of the Certification Body.
  • Multi-ingredient products with anywhere from 70% to 95% organic content must label exactly what percentage of ingredients are organic (eg. “contains x% organic ingredients). They cannot claim to be “organic” and may not use the organic logo on their packaging. However, these products must still be certified and should still have the name of the Certification Body on the label.
  • Multi-ingredient products with less than 70% organic content can only list the organic claims on the product’s ingredient lis and not elsewhere on the labelt. They do not require certification and may not use the organic logo nor claim to be “organic”. Keep in mind that the organic ingredients within these products must still be individually certified.
That pretty much sums up the list of organic products as well as products made with organic ingredients. Sometimes, you might find that companies will have a label marked as “natural”. This means absolutely nothing. This is usally nothing more than the practice of “greenwashing”, using marketing lingo to deceptively promote the perception that a product is organic when it’s not. It may simply mean that the product was rinsed before packaging in an attempt to remove some of the toxins and pesticides. It may not even mean that. Do not trust a label that says “natural” or “all-natural” alone; look at the ingredients on the package and if they do not state to be organic, then there’s probably nothing natural about that product. If a product is labelled as “organic”, it cannot be genetically modified nor can it come from a genetically modified seed. If it is not labelled “organic”, it can contain GMOs and most likely does. It is estimated that roughly 70% of the food on shelves in Canadian grocery stores contains genetically modified products. Odds are, if you’re not eating organic foods than you’re eating GMOs. I hope this helps to clear up some of the confusion. I encourage everyone to eat organic as much as possible. However, remember to always keep perspective and eat real foods – eating an organic TV dinner doesn’t mean it’s good for you. It’s still a TV dinner at the end of the day. Have a great weekend, everyone!