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Aug 18, 2003 11:08 AM

The Organic Dodge

  • c

Organic foods have their own labels, but are there similar labels for non-organics? If I buy among the many many fruit, vegetables, etc., completely unlabelled, is there any chance they might be tainted with organics?

I avoid organic markets like the plague (no pun intended!), but I fear some organic produce may have slipped into the mainstream these days. Or is the price difference still great enough to prevent this? Can I rest assured that any organic produce will necessarily be marketed as such, because it sells so much higher than the properly treated ones?

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  1. Organics are spreading everywhere; nothing is safe. To be safe, stick to processed foods.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Karl S.

      Not even processed foods are safe. Soon there will likely be an organic coca cola and even organic McDonald's.

      For the most part organic will be separated from non organic as there are lots of hoops for the growers and prcessors to jump through in order to use the term legally. So they have it in their interest to keep organic well segregated from non organic. As long as you shop at major stores and stay away from small locally owned groceries anything organic will, by law, be well marked.

      Now if you shop where the store buys locally grown food you may end up buying organically grown (but not certified) foods that would not have an organic lable and may well be mixed in with the conventionally raised foods.

      And just stay away from farmer's markets and food clubs like CSA's. There you are likely to find all organically grown foods.

      Also avoid any foods with the term "pastured raised" or sustainably grown.



      1. re: Ohiorganic

        At CSAs, yes indeed, all produce will be organic.
        But at farmers markets, at least in NYC, far from it.
        The assurance at these markets is that you'll get locally grown produce. Since the organic growers are usually eager to advertise the fact, the distinction is very clear.
        If I had to choose between organic and locally grown, I'd definitely choose locally grown. But I'm not running away from organic, so I don't know if any of this would be helpful to City Boy. ;-)

    2. Although the original post and follow-ups are tongue-in-cheek there is an interesting and serious situation in the wine business. Apparently some wineries which grow organic grapes are reluctant to put that designation on the label because of the bad (or "cult") reputation of some organic wines.

      Fetzer, for example, grows all its grapes organically but has a second label that they designate "organic."

      There is some confusion with the use of sulfites; whether wine from organic grapes, but with added sulfite, can be labeled "organic wine" or merely "wine made from organic grapes."

      Some wineries that stopped using sulfites in their wine (or cut the level) made some bad (spoiled) wine and their reputation suffered.

      12 Replies
      1. re: Joel Teller

        Nothing tongue-in-cheek about my inquiry. Organic foods are notorious sources of disease, including several fatal cases in the US. I'd rather enjoy my fresh produce without the parasites, thank you. I don't understand all this fengshui against pesticides -- the slight danger they pose is far less than the danger of foregoing them.

        Why the FDA would encourage this sort of hazard in this day and age is beyond me. Sure, we'd all be more "natural" without soap, iodine, and penicillin, but why risk it?

        Someone below stated that organic foods "must be labeled", but I am not convinced. Please tell me that it's true!

        1. re: cityboy

          Can you provide data to back up your claim that organic foods are dangerous?

          1. re: Timowitz

            The data is everywhere, but I'd need to fish around if you want specifics. I did notice an expose in the NYTimes a week or two ago - Harvard prof; Indian or Thai sounding name, I think.

            Dean Adell (sp?) also rallies against it regularly on his radio show, but I don't know how respected he is. Seems fairly conservative for a radio physician.

            Until the data is conclusive one way or another, I vote for hygiene over superstition. Luddites, enjoy your pestilence!

            1. re: cityboy
              Caitlin McGrath

              When you say you "notice[d] an expose in the NYTimes a week or two ago," are you referring to the article on organic produce and health by Marian Burros that appeared in the food section? Because that article was about whether organic produce offers more nutritional health benefit than conventionally-grown produce, and there was nothing and no one in it that claimed that organic foods are dangerous, just that there's no benefit to one's health in eating them.

              I am certainly curious to know whether Dean Edell really "rails against" organic foods and claims they are dangerous, versus asserting that they don't offer any benefit over conventionally grown foods.

              I would be very interested in seeing any actual citation of a source or even a reasonable claim that eating organic foods is nore dangerous than eating foods grown with chemical pesticides. I keep an eye out for news and information about organic foods for my own reasons, and I have never heard such a claim made.

              1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                No, the name was Indian/Thai-sounding. "Ephrani Sridhan", or somesuch.

              2. re: cityboy

                Here's an article from the Guardian in the UK. It reads, in part:

                "The spate of recent "organic scare" stories probably started with Denis T Avery, Director of Global Food Issues at the Hudson Institute, a rich and powerful US free-market, pro-globalisation think tank funded, amongst others, by chemical companies, agribusiness and biotech companies - all of whom have taken a battering in the global GM furore.

                In 1998, Avery published "The Hidden Dangers in Organic Food" in American Outlook, a quarterly Hudson Institute publication. It began: "According to recent data compiled by the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC), people who eat organic and 'natural' foods are eight times as likely as the rest of the population to be attacked by a deadly new strain of E coli bacteria (0157:H7)."

                The trouble was, the CDC denied ever having done the studies. But the Hudson and its British counterparts such as the European Science and Environment Forum, and the Institute of Economic Affairs, have been peddling variations of the story to shock-hungry journalists, notably at C4, Living Marxism, a BBC Counterblast programme, and even the Wall Street Journal. "

                Perhaps what you recall reading is nothing more than propaganda of the convential foods industry? No doubt there is plenty of it out there. I would love to see specific sources.


                1. re: nja

                  Well, that "study" does indeed sound like scare-mongering and fraud, but I'm sure there are dozens of legit studies to the same effect. It only stands to reason - you strip a food source of all basic hygiene, things are going to go bad. Farmers don't coat things with DDT just for the fun of it, you know!

                  The burden of proof should not be on mainstream consumers to justify centuries of educated practice, the burden of proof should be on the scare-mongers who are challenging such practices in the first place. We've all heard the mantra by now of the "dangers" of pesticides, but, truth is, the evidence is scant. I'm all ears to the organic argument, but if I am to choose dirty, bug-ridden food over "sanitized" ones, there had better be some cold, hard facts about the hazards of the latter.

                  As to Dr. Edell, yes, he argues stronly against organics. Not just that they show no benefits, but specifically that they are dangerous, for the same reasons I've mentioned above. He also takes on religious groups who refuse medical treatment as being "unnatural", so I'm not sure why his position on organics would surprise anyone. Science has little room for such superstition.

                  1. re: cityboy

                    A lack of hygiene is not a hallmark of organic food production. DDT has been outlawed for many years and is not really readily available. If you know farmers that are "coating" produce with it they probably have too much cash available. I actually wonder if you are trying to start a flame war.

                    1. re: cityboy

                      If you are so sure that there are "dozens of legit studies to the same effect" as the Hudson Institute "study" cite a few of them.
                      BTW ... the Hudson Institute "study" (assuming it was accurately described in the Guardian) does not qualify as a study ... it's called a lie.

                  2. re: cityboy

                    Start fishing, cityboy. If you're going to make a claim like that, you'd better have some evidence at the tips of your fingers to back it up with.

                2. re: cityboy

                  Produce that has not been treated with pesticides -- or, more broadly and to the point, is treated with an inadequate amount of pesticides -- has never been required to be so labelled and I cannot imagine it ever can or will be, since there is no agreed upon standard upon which to assure you against your fear. You just have to cope with that. Just know that your fear also should cover non-organic produce, too.

                  1. re: cityboy

                    The data is everywhere, but I'd need to fish around if you want specifics. I did notice an expose in the NYTimes a week or two ago - Harvard prof; Indian or Thai sounding name, I think.

                    Dean Adell (sp?) also rallies against it regularly on his radio show, but I don't know how respected he is. Seems fairly conservative for a radio physician.

                    Until the data is conclusive one way or another, I vote for hygiene over superstition. Luddites, enjoy your pestilence!

                3. I believe that, except for garnishes, this is really just a repackaging of The Organic Chrysler; while the latter are generally less expensive than comparably equipped Organic Dodges, during end-of-year promotions it may be impossible to distinguish them on price alone.

                  1. pesticides are used to stop bugs from eating holes in stuff, not to protect you against e coli and other "paracites" (misnomer). Paracites, viruses, and other bad stuff that lives in fruits and veggies 1)won't be able to live in you 2)are inside the fruit or whatnot and cannot be reached by spraying. What your concerned about is hygiene, not organics. The chemicals that you don't mind eating are present not to protect you from disease, but to increase crop yeilds and for cosmetic reasons (bug holes) If a field worker has feces on his hand when he packs your fruit, it doesn't matter what herbicides, pesticides, and fugucides were previously applied. If your concerned about catching something from your veggies, you should care about how well it gets washed, not whether some weed killer was applied to it monthes ago. Smarten up.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: jake-o

                      Thank you. Yes, you make the case well. I for one do not want feces on my food, and am quite indebted to the non-organic farmers who wash them with isopropyl, ammonia, listerene, whatever.

                      Perhaps I was a bit misguided about "DDT", but it still sounds better than feces.

                      1. re: cityboy

                        I think organic food gets washed the the same way everything else does. And by the way, when you kill off all the natural flora and fauna that's supposed to be on you food, thats when colonies of the real nasties get an opportunity to grow. Kind of like using antibiotic soap on everything in your kitchen. Trust me, city boy, people have been eating "organic" for 200,000 years, and they did just fine. People have only been eating pesticides for sixty or seventy years. You have the tools in your belly to deal with the natural creepy crawlies, but I'm not so sure about the man made ones.

                        1. re: jake-o

                          Oh, yes, and of course the people who "did fine" for those 200,000 years had life expectancies FAR beyond those of modern man, right?

                          Cmon, folks, some FACTS please! Enough of this "science will kill you" hand-waving. If there is something dangerous about treated foods, could someone cite at least a DAB of evidence, please?

                          Seems to me that the advent of science, education, hygiene, pesticides, GMO technology, etc., is to thank for the healthier, longer lives we are living. Even with obesity, cancer, heart disease, etc., the average lifespan is 2-3 times that of the "Organic Era".

                    2. Cityboy asked a practical chowish question, but the thread has digressed into an increasingly angry and theoretical debate.

                      Please take the technical/scientific debate to our Not About Food board, where we handle these sorts of tangential Larger Issues.
                      If/when you do, please feel free to post a "heads up" so that those involved in this discussion know to jump to that continuation.