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"Preserving the Organic Integrity of Food" - Tell me why I shouldn't snicker.

I've been noticing signs in my local Whole Foods telling people how they can "preserve the organic integrity" of their food. It's basically advice on how to make sure that your organic food doesn't come in contact with conventional foods. For instance, it advises that you slice bread and grind coffee beans at home, since the store's slicers and grinders are also used for conventional food. It asks people to be careful about what scoopers, etc they use so as to get things mixed up.

I don't keep kosher, but I know enough about it to know that kosher food can be made treyf (non-kosher) by mere contact with treyf food or, for that matter, mere contact with something that has come in contact with treyf food. But kosher is a ritual status. The piece of formerly kosher bread that sat on a clean plate that once held a piece of bacon is not physically distinguishable from the piece of kosher bread that has never touched treyf. But no one is claiming that it is. The difference is spiritual/religious/ritual and I understand the concerns about contact.

But last time I looked, food was organic when it was grown, raised and or processed according to certain rules, using certain methods and ingredients and avoiding others. Are there seriously people who believe that the organic-ness (so to speak) of their food is compromised or ruined by the slightest contact with conventional foods? Do they believe that being organic is somehow a spiritual state that can sullied by the slightest contact with conventional foods? Do they believe that slicing their organic bread on a slicer used for conventional bread magically disorganics their bread? Changes the way its ingredients were grown? Ruins the special organic healthfulness of the bread?

Now, I buy a lot of organic products. Some I prefer because I think they're better for my family's health, others I choose because I think it's a more responsible environmental choice. But it never really occurred to me to worry about my organic coffee beans coming into contact with a few grains of conventional coffee in the grinder or whether the scoop I use to get my organic flour once touched the conventional stuff. Who cares?

Maybe I'm missing something. Here's your opportunity to persuade me that this isn't just some silly greener-than-thou nonsense.

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  1. They say that b/c they're probably liable for it if they don't.

    'Organic' is a legal definition now in the US, and they could lose their certification if they're certified, or be sued, etc.

    And, while most people don't care, someone probably does.

    1 Reply
    1. re: xanadude

      xanadude is correct, I am sure. However, I do find it pretty silly myself.

    2. I won't tell you not to snicker, I know I am. :-D

      2 Replies
      1. re: swsidejim

        >>this isn't just some silly greener-than-thou nonsense.

        You betcha. It is.

        1. re: dolores

          I heard a radio talk show host refer to these types as "greenies" I had a good chuckle.

      2. Well, this is a stretch but here goes . . .

        I know of people who believe food holds energy that is transferred to their body when they eat the food. These folks will not eat something that has been treated with pesticides, for example, because even if the pesticide residue is washed from the product the negative energy of it is still present in the food. Likewise, they may not eat meat or factory farm eggs for the same reason. To someone with this belief system, it could well matter if their organic bread came into contact, however slight, with nonorganic bread. One of these folks told me this is why blessing your food is important. It's not just a religious expression of gratitude, it clears the bad energy of the food. I have also read in more than a couple books that the food preparer's attitude influences the energy of the food and one shouldn't cook when angry.

        I respect this belief and think it's kind of cool that the world has so many interesting people in it. In the case of WF, however, I think the signage is a gimmick.

        5 Replies
        1. re: three of us

          Food sure does hold energy that is transferred to the body. Wish I could get food with some of that "negative energy"--a way to eat and lose weight.

          1. re: three of us

            "I know of people who believe food holds energy that is transferred to their body when they eat the food... To someone with this belief system, it could well matter if their organic bread came into contact, however slight, with nonorganic bread. One of these folks told me this is why blessing your food is important."

            What this tells me is that the difference here is also a matter of ritual, just like the kosher rules. Some call it a belief system, some call it superstition; whatever it is, it is not based on science.

            "Gimmick" is too kind a word; I would call it pandering.

            1. re: three of us

              Now I can't drive the interstate because some truck carrying "Bad Karma" veggies polluted the asphalt.

              1. re: bkhuna

                Thanks for the laugh! Yasgur Farms is closing down after lo these many years (site of the original Woodstock Festival). I'll miss seeing their "Good Karma" psychadelic milk delivery trucks on the road!

                Flower Power forever.

              2. re: three of us

                Sadly, I would bet if I tested "organic" food for traces of contaminants at the limit of analytical abilities (much less than nanograms and in some causes single atoms) you would find "traces". The simple reason is that they are still exposed to the atmosphere and rainfall containing small quantities of various items - lead, mercury, organic hydrocarbons etc... no matter how isolated ( save if they are greenhouse grown under even stricter conditions)...so there is still "negative" energy attached.

              3. when one talks about beliefs, the mature thing to do is accept the fact that others will believe in different items than you, the rest of the posters and jfood. As jfood respects the vegans, the vegetarians, the carnivores on the eating side, and all religiuous beliefs as they relate to food, if one wants to adhere to a pure-oganic interpretation, more power to them.

                Does jfood believe in this theory, well he just finished a half Jif low-fat PB on Pepperidge Farm bread, so obviously not.

                Jfood's only contention is that they do not impose their single-mind set to others, unwillingly. Many years ago jfood was in a Mongolian BBQ place where you packed your little tin and then they walked around this 5' flat heated iron thing to cook your stuff. All kinds of food were prepared sequentially. A gentleman asked that they clean the thing because he was a vegetarian and did not want his stuff cooked on the same thing. He was told that it was cleaned about every 20 minutes and if he would like to wait they would cook his first. He started to make a fuss and then saw the line behind him start to get a little edgey (and this was in NJ), so he gulped, thanked the guy and waited.

                2 Replies
                1. re: jfood

                  I agree with you on the live and let live aspect. In fact, variety is the spice of life as they say.
                  I do however agree with what Hunt said. Pandering. Feeding some ones fears/dillusions/whatever is just as bad as trying to force your beliefs on someone.


                  1. re: Davwud


                    Yup, Hunt, as usual, has great points. To be clear jfood does not pander to the needs of this group and he expects them to leave jfood to his hot dogs on processed buns, oreo cookies and diet mountain dew.

                2. I have known quite a number of people who have, mostly for health issues, purchased only organic food and went to the extreme of even laying their own bag or jacket onto the conveyor belt at the checkout so their food would not be sullied. They believed any contact with un-organic goods would taint them with pesticides, bad vibes, etc. (Evidently they never thought about what happened before it reached the special section in the store.). While I was tempted to snicker, myself, they believed they were doing something that would help cure them of truly awful problems that western medicine had not been able to cure, and this is a growing problem. Sometimes you do what you think is best, even if it is not scientifically sound.

                  Other than this kind of extreme behavior, I believe that places that segregate organic and non organic food so rigidly do this at the request of the customer who is paying more for the organics and wants to be assured they're getting their money's worth, to some degree.

                  What is worse, in my opinion, is the practice of pulling and trashing items that have gone out of date, whether or not they have gone bad at all. I would be perfectly happy to pay less for something that was still edible but out of date and take the risks (vegetable/fruit/bread only).

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: PersnicketyChicky

                    My ShopRite grocery store always has reduced price fuits and veggies - perfectly good but not up to perfection standards. Nothing wrong with it, so I sometimes buy it. And of course my bakery always has "day-old" baked goods and breads - whatever didn't sell the day before. Anything left after that goes into big bags for animal feed! Lots of people with horses or goats, or who feed deer in winter, love stale bread.

                    1. re: Catskillgirl

                      Mmmm, pain perdu or bread pudding.

                      1. re: mrbozo

                        my thoughts exactly! plus croutons & french toast....

                  2. well, certified organic farmers, retailers and warehouses have to treat organic & conventional produce as *very* different. for example in handling and shipping, you put the organic cases of lettuce on the top shelves of the truck, and the conventional below, because the organic stuff can drip onto the conventional, but *not* vice-versa. same thing in the warehouse. all the organic stuff in one area/room, conventional in another. if you pack the organic basil with the conventional, as happened once, all the basil becomes conventional. retailers should have separate coolers for organic and conventional, and separate produce washing sinks for organic. if someone throws a conventional banana peel in the organic sink, everything stops and you perform a deep clean, or you lose your certification as an organic retailer. there's extensive staff training involved with organic certification, extra inspections, and paperwork regimes to be scrupulously performed.

                    people who deal with organic stuff would no sooner use the same cutting board for conventional peppers, then switch to organic carrots, then they would chop raw chicken, and then switch to prepping salad greens on the same cutting board. consumers don't really care or have a clue though, many of them have no problem picking up dirty cheap apples and an organic lemon, which they want to use for zest, & putting them in the same bag. kind of silly, but it is their choice-- however the rules about organic/conventional non-contamination are about people's right to clean food: if a lady has switched to all-organic produce after several miscarriages, and believes that it can help her get her baby to term, or if a cancer survivor has cut out a category of conventional produce with a heavy load of carcinogens, or a person with a nervous disorder is sensitive to organophospates and feels healthier without consuming them, it is their right to purchase and consume certified organic produce-- it's what they are often paying more for, and they shouldn't have to worry about their clean produce having had heavy contact with heavy-load conventional stuff. that's why there's so much paperwork and extra handling procedures with organics, to legally, provably gaurantee what these people want to be paying for. unfortunately in places that sell both organic and conventional, customers intermix stuff casually because it's the way they do it in their fridge at home, they don't think about it. i don't know, i'd let a baby play on the floor at my house, but i don't think it's the same thing as letting the baby play on the floor at a hospital, but you see people doing that, while all the nurses are cringing in horror because they know what kind of stuff the baby's coming into contact with-- anyway. a lady asked us to cater an event for her and thought she'd save a lot of money if we used conventional produce instead of organic. when i told her that my coolers were clean, she was like "of course they are"-- and i had to go slow and tell her that the refrigerators *had never, ever contained or contacted conventionally grown produce with pesticides, and there was no way i was going to put any in there.* it was like part of her brain exploded, she had obviously never ever thought about it.

                    6 Replies
                    1. re: soupkitten

                      Very interesting. I really had no idea.

                      1. re: soupkitten

                        Thanks you. I was getting ready to post about organic certification & the implications - but you did it much better than I could. I was with a large nature foods grocery when they were going through the process of being certified. It was quite the education for all of us, and we were already pretty aware. I suspect the signs the poster has seen are there as a gentle attempt to bring awareness to the customers. It is difficult to make the efforts to keep organic standards and then see a bin of food contaminated by the wrong scoop being put in. Not all customers care, but staff works tremendously hard to maintain it for the folks who it does matter. My SO is with a coffee importer. They are certified Kosher & organic. Organic standards were much tougher to meet!

                        1. re: soupkitten

                          So with air quality the way it is, or is becoming, do they need organic smog only where their food is being grown, shipped, stored?? Or what they breathe??


                          1. re: soupkitten

                            I think my brain would have exploded too. People are acting like conventional food is radioactive and mere contact with it will result in death.

                              1. re: soupkitten

                                Sorry to be TDQ-come-lately to this thread, but thank you for this post, soupkitten. Very informative, at least, for me.


                              2. Seems along the lines of "Step on a crack, break your mother's back." But what the heck, it's harmless.

                                1. Don't snicker. Although not yet listed in the DSM-IV, the "condition" now has a name: "orthorexia" and, of course, taken to its extreme, "orthorexia nervosa," which can lead to death because sufferers are so consumed (pun not intended) that they rule out virtually all foods for some reason or other.
                                  There is increasing research on the subject which you can find in articles in popular media reporting recent scientific articles and studies.
                                  The Wiki entry is a good starting point. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orthorex...

                                  3 Replies
                                  1. re: MakingSense

                                    Sounds like a manifestation of OCD, not sure why it needs its own classification. Anyone see the movie Safe? It's from the mid-90s and stars Julianne Moore. It's what I think of when I hear stuff like this. (cool movie, too)

                                    1. re: dagwood

                                      Hah! I was fixin' to mention just that: Todd Hayne's Safe is an amazing film made even moreso for it's presience vis a vis "orthorexia" psychosis. And, I too, have seen people with major illness sadly compound their suffering with magical thinking and snake oil.

                                  2. gotta say i'm a little surprised at the responses. chowhounds' standards for organic foods seem to be at odds with attitudes about other premium ingredients. i think that if we were talking about somehow ruining the integrity or somehow contaminating different premium comestibles, people would be irate-- i dunno. if we were talking about someone leaving a 20lb case of premium unsalted french butter, or a box of $3/per artisan truffles, inside their hot car for hours, thereby wreaking the product in a sad, puddly mess, is that not *wrong*? storing fine wine, olive oil, or aged prime steaks incorrectly, compromising the product: not wrong? leaving premium fresh seafood out at room temperature for hours: okay somehow? knocking a bottle of poisonous cleanser onto the greens intended for a salad bar? suffocating farmstead artisan cheese in sealed plastic? --i doubt that anyone would argue that any of those things are okay, but mishandling organic produce and contaminating it with chemicals-- rendering it no longer organic-- *is* okay? i guess i don't follow this reasoning. i'd like to hear some better discussion than the 1-liners we have thus far.

                                    i think most people go to certain lengths not to contaminate food. we don't pack the produce in the same grocery sack with the cleaning products, and store food and chemicals separately at home. i have a very early memory of my mother telling my kid brother not to pee on the strawberry patch because we were going to eat the berries later. . .

                                    the organic farmers i source directly from go to tremendous pains to keep their crops clean and chemical-free. i won't go into boring details, but these people have to develop their soils for years, go through rigorous organic certification processes, and then work every day for months to produce organic crops. they would be totally dismayed to proudly bring their hand-harvested premium crops to market, only to see a consumer walk up and carelessly toss a bag of heavy-pesticide-load chilean grapes on top of the display. :( the certified warehouse we source through is scrupulous and every employee follows the organic standards for handling the produce. it's absolutely tip-top stuff, and best of all, i never have to open a case of conventional celery or romaine and get hit in the face with that sick synthetic pesticide smell. because so much of scratch cooking is "simple," it's my preference to work with the best quality ingredients. to me, there's nothing worse than touching, working with, and tasting conventional produce-- it's been obviously indifferently harvested (underripe), & indifferently handled, stored, shipped. apart from the fact that it's less fresh, most of it really sucks, and using crappy ingredients compromises the final food product--so i've successfully cut conventional ingredients out of my world, for the most part. opening up a 10 lb case of basil and realizing that the shippers tossed a 5# conventional basil and a 5# organic basil together is dismaying. the formerly organic basil will work for someone, somewhere, but it's not organic anymore because of the mishandling, it's not chemical free, therefore not what my customers are paying for, and it's *absolutely not* good enough to accept.

                                    other threads on chowhound talk about choosing the best ingredients and the best ways to handle, store, and prepare the ingredients to show them off at their best. chefs who carefully track down and source the finest ingredients are lauded. on the currently running top chef thread, tramonto's having had a one-time, for t.v. show production only, sack of low-quality, frozen scallops in the cooler generated a great buzz of folks saying they no longer respected the establishment, would never eat at the restaurant, etc. tramonto's professional credibility was attacked:


                                    in other threads, chowhounds have become irate that chefs and retailers were attempting to pass off tilapia as premium fish, pork for veal, etc.--with very good reason!!!--but if i sold premium organic salads and mains, (as i currently do) to consumers, but actually used cheap, shoddy conventional produce, or improperly stored, formerly organic, but then chemically contaminated ingredients, still telling the consumer that they are getting an organic product-- is this not reprehensibly wrong? am i not doing the greatest disservice to my customers, who perhaps sought out my product because they want to consume clean food? if my staff and i do not abide by the strictest, most careful handling procedures with the organic products, am i not guilty of compromising the integrity of premium foodstuff, and serving my customer a product that's arguably not what they are paying for? shoot-- if i don't have to take care of the organic produce, why don't i just cut to the chase and use fillers, preservatives and crap in every product, leave perishables out at room temp for hours, not clean the walk-in, not wash my hands after using the ladies' and go on to serve customers. . . but wouldn't that make me kind of a bad person? a shyster? is that why i'm having such a hard time imagining anybody mistreating the gorgeous organic lettuces? abusing the clean apples? pissing on the strawberry patch?

                                    i get that i come from a different perspective on this. i work with beautiful organic produce every day, and i make awesome food out of it that i don't for a second think that i could create with conventional stuff. i take pride in the fact that i pick up hotel pans and aprons at restaurant depot, but *not* liquid cheese product in a bag and cases of tomatoes that are clearly stamped "produce of arizona, for export only"-- in msp(!)-- you can't even tell me the truck went the wrong way on the highway, dude. :) many people have no idea what goes into the food they routinely eat. seeing a case of conventional produce next to a case of organic produce, working with it, cooking with it, there is no comparison--but the average consumer won't necessarily get that from grocery store ingredients and cooking dinner 3-4 times a week.

                                    personally, i want to be able to tell my customers that they are getting what they are paying for, and to bring about 100 people standing behind me to step forward and give their part of that: "i grew those radishes in pesticide and chemical-free soil it took me 8 years to develop," "i selected and picked the radishes by hand, ran the harvest truck to cold storage, and was compensated fairly for my work," "i drove the radishes to the warehouse in a chemical-free truck," i carefully stored the radishes in the organic room at the warehouse," "i took soupkitten's produce order over the phone," "when soupkitten ordered a 1/2 case of radishes, i put on my organic-only gloves, picked out a box that formerly contained *only organic produce,* and separated the case," "i loaded the organic order for soupkitten on shelves above the conventional bananas and delivered it first," "i rushed the order to the organic-only cooler," "i washed the radishes in a chem-free sink," "i cut the radishes on a cutting board and in a prep area that's never ever seen petrol-based, environmentally persistent synthetic chemicals," "i made your salad with clean ingredients," "i served you your salad, refilled your coffee, and let you get on with your day, whether or not you have a clue about how many people have worked to do such a *simple* thing." the amazing thing is, that when we're talking about certified organic produce, there is a paper trail that goes from the radish garnish on your salad in front of you, all the way back to the acre of land and the plot where the radish was grown. you can see exactly where your meal came from, how it was handled, and when and by whom.

                                    i personally choose to keep my fridge at home with the same standards i use at work. it's a routine i think a lot of chefs have. however i don't hold myself to an all-organic diet by any means. if i'm eating out, am a guest at someone's home, eating street food, or i see something delicious, anywhere, i'm going to buy it and eat it. on tough days, ones where i don't ever see a proper meal, i, soupkitten, drink a can of mass-marketed hfcs soda to get through the day. but i am (currently, mercifully, & thankfully) young & healthy & strong-- if i was a 75 year old double mastectomy breast cancer survivor, like dh's grandma, i would definitely not consume items that i currently do-- the thing about healthy eating is that it's all relative according to where you are in life. i'd be a liar if i said i never had an encounter with a particularly intense customer who's (imo) taking their own healthy eating habits to the extreme. after their barrage of questions and them looking at me like i'm trying to put something over on them, i've walked back to the kitchen swearing a 2 minute blue streak which ends in "stupid effing hippy." so i don't think of myself as some little la-tee-da limp wristed "my-body-is-a-temple" type. to be honest, i'm an old punk-rocker who, at one time, drank this, smoked that, and snorted the other up my left nostril. but if being an old punk-rocker taught me anything useless that will keep me poor for the rest of my life, it's "don't sell out, dude." i guess the minute i think it's okay to put something on a plate and sell it to my customer who trusts that the item is something that it's just *not,* is the moment i've finally sold my soul, what's left of it. i've chosen to pick up a spoonful of crap and feed it to babies who trust me, and take their money. most horribly, i've dicked over all of the farmers, my former friends, who sell the best product possible, that they grew/raised the best way they know how-- that they picked according to the color on the vegetable when they walked through their fields (as opposed to factory-farm computerized plant/harvest schedules which don't take into consideration the soil, the weather, the dips, sunny & shady places in the field, the avg growing temp). to answer the op's question: "who cares?" i guess i care. my customers care. even if 90% of them don't care about organic stuff--whatsoever(!); someone told them the grub is good, so they came here to eat good food-- 10% of them care about the organic/shmorganic stuff, 90% care about good food, which=good ingredients, which=same thing anyway. i don't try to tell every customer that organic is the so-called (only)right way to go, it's not my job. i just let the food speak for itself and am happy to hand the farmers a paycheck. if someone comes in who couldn't care less, it's still my job to put the good food out, charge the customer a fair price for the premium food they bought and consumed, and hand the farmer that paycheck. it's also my job to make sure that the farmers' work is cared for and respected-- that nobody pisses on the strawberry patch. i obsessively take care of everything while it is in my care to make sure it's the best we can offer; and like a lot of chowhounds, i respect other chefs who take the same care with their ingredients, and disparage those who use crap ingredients, cheap fillers, frozen scallops, old produce, low-grade meat, sneeze on the cold line. etc.

                                    i think that if wanting to use the best ingredients with no compromises is some kind of disorder, it's a disorder that's very common with a lot of home cooks, who would call themselves "discriminating." it's very common with many chefs who would call themselves "uncompromising." is "discriminating" and "uncompromising" a bad thing now, suddenly? did i not get the memo?

                                    i am willing to accept that i may be out of touch on this issue: for one thing, i cook professionally, for another, i live in msp-- it's a common thing 'round here to run into the mayor, nationally renowned cookbook authors, & local hip-hop phenoms at the co-op. our food critics belong to, and write about, their csas. if a restaurateur doesn't know the names of the farmers (and family members, & kids) whom they source from, they work at a fast-food place or a hotel. i've come to understand that this isn't really the way it works in other areas of the country. perhaps organic standards do become a joke when your only point of reference is the "organic" food at wal-mart. i don't think for a second that there is a catch-all category for people who like to eat organic food, any more than there is a catch-all for people who like to eat burgers, or pasta, or apples. i don't mean to write a 10-page manifesto, & i don't think food needs to have a certification to be good--i have no problem with sustainable farmers who choose not to get organic certification, and i happily use their products.

                                    what i don't get is how commingling chemical food and organic food in anything except a home fridge is okay though. just where i am coming from. i'd like to discuss how it is elsewhere, in other worlds, with an open mind. tia.

                                    4 Replies
                                    1. re: soupkitten

                                      "to me, there's nothing worse than touching, working with, and tasting conventional produce-- it's been obviously indifferently harvested (underripe), & indifferently handled, stored, shipped. apart from the fact that it's less fresh,"

                                      While much industrial conventional produce is like that, so is much industrial organic produce, which is harvested and shipped in exactly the same manner; in the same way, there is awesome mixed-crop, no-spray, dry-farmed produce that isn't organic.

                                      Organic has a definition, which has nothing to do with the ripeness at harvest nor freshness. I'm absolutely sure you know this. It's all about knowing where your food comes from.

                                      1. re: xanadude

                                        please see my 2nd to last paragraph, Xanadude

                                        "i don't think food needs to have a certification to be good--i have no problem with sustainable farmers who choose not to get organic certification, and i happily use their products."

                                        i appreciate your point, but the op's query isn't about organic vs sustainable, knowing where your food comes from, etc. the jist of what i was trying to say above is that 1) if certified organic produce is mishandled in such a way as the food becomes contaminated, *it is no longer organic* 2) and that if a consumer purchases or is served the contaminated product, when they have sought out an organic one, and are paying (more) for it, and s/he believes they are getting a chem-free poduct-- then to give them the mishandled/contaminated product is wrong, probably illegal, certainly poor customer service. hence the handling procedures to make sure that a chem-free product that's been raised, shipped clean, is not contaminated at the last possible second before it is consumed. bungling the handling of chem-free produce is a terrible oversight, like leaving fresh seafood off ice for hours, then re-icing and selling it as premium fresh. educated consumers should seek out retailers and restaurants who respect the ingredients enough to treat them carefully and keep them free from contamination. if they treat the most premium foodstuffs indifferently, it points to a very disturbing attitude toward the food and the customer.

                                      2. re: soupkitten

                                        "if we were talking about someone leaving a 20lb case of premium unsalted french butter, or a box of $3/per artisan truffles, inside their hot car for hours, thereby wreaking the product in a sad, puddly mess, is that not *wrong*? storing fine wine, olive oil, or aged prime steaks incorrectly, compromising the product: not wrong?"

                                        Yes it is wrong. And it's not what the OP is talking about.
                                        It's more along the lines of, if you buying a piece of sushi grade tuna, you shouldn't have it cut on the same cutting board as a piece of tilapia because it would devalue the tuna.
                                        If you cut a piece of Kobe beef on a butcher block that just had chuck on it, it would deKobe the beef.

                                        Improperly handling things that can cause degradation to the extent that the product is changed physically or rendered unsafe is quite another subject.


                                        1. re: soupkitten

                                          A fabulous post soupkitten! Thank you.

                                        2. Hey, I don't want future archeologists snickering at us for consuming so many preservatives that unintentionally, we to future generations, look like mummies do to us, q/ their "odd" preservation techniques.
                                          I do not trust Cargill and Archer Daniels Midland to keep me healthy.

                                          1. I believe it's "Deorganics".

                                            Great topic. I love these ones that stir such emotion.


                                            1. I'm not a Whole Foods customer, so I'm a bit curious about their practices. For example, does Whole Foods require all customers to wear disposable plastic gloves when selecting produce and to change them every time they buy something organic after having touched something conventional - or do customers never touch produce at all? Do their stockers wash with organic soap and/or wear plastic gloves when touching produce (and change them or wash again accordingly)?

                                              18 Replies
                                              1. re: Striver

                                                yes, Whole Foods customers are required to wear plastic baggies on their feet, hands, and head upon entering the store, as well as a mask over their mouth and nose. God forbid any non-organic outside air/particles get into their organic shopping environment. ;-)

                                                1. re: Striver

                                                  WF where I shop has one stocker working organic, another conventional produce. They certainly can't control who touches what but their liability ends there.

                                                  What I hope is that some of the humorous-bordering-on-snarky comments get that the integrity of organic foods matters greatly to some people and, whether you agree or not, that should be respected as their preference and pov.

                                                  1. re: three of us

                                                    I can only speak for myself. While I agree that people's beliefs should be respected I don't think WF (or anyone else) should be enabling what really seems to be obsessiveness or ignorance.

                                                    Are a few bread crumbs really going to taint a loaf of bread?? Especially in some of these centres where WF is. The air you breathe is several times worse than the potential that a flake of conventional coffee get in with the organic stuff.

                                                    If you just go ahead and try your damnedest to keep things from touching non organic, well good for you.
                                                    But don't for a second think that you're any healthier.

                                                    Also, I thought WF only sold organic??


                                                    1. re: Davwud

                                                      No, whole foods sells both organic and what they call "conventional" items. They sell only what they consider to be "whole foods". There's a list on their website of what ingredients they will not carry. Interestingly high fructose corn syrup is NOT on that list.

                                                      1. re: dagwood

                                                        Of course it's not. There's organic hfcs out there.


                                                        1. re: Davwud

                                                          Yes, but as stated, Whole Foods carries MANY conventional items, they are NOT restricted to only organics. My point is they carry items with non-organic HFCS, which I don't really consider a "whole" or "natural" food.

                                                          They only carry "natural", or "whole" foods, as deemed by them.
                                                          Items that are not allowed include bleached flour, artificial colors or sweeteners, and hydrogenated fats, to name just a few. (The list is here: http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/produ...


                                                          Personally, I don't consider something that has been modified to the degree that HFCS has to be "whole", and am surprised it is not on their list.

                                                      2. re: Davwud

                                                        whether or not folks see special handling procedures for different items as silly or obsessive is kind of beside the point. this is a legal food handling issue--please see the retail handling guidelines:

                                                        o Organic produce is palletized and stored separately;
                                                        o Produce that requires washing is washed in designated, sanitized basins and returned to designated pallets or racks;
                                                        o Trimming is performed with tools designated for organic foods;
                                                        o Organic meats are cut first in a sterilized shop;
                                                        o Organic items are clearly marked;
                                                        o Bulk organic items are stored in separate bins with separate scoops;
                                                        o Food handlers are trained regarding procedures for organic products;
                                                        o Specific and appropriate pest control procedures are employed; and
                                                        o Organic agricultural products are displayed to avoid commingling, customer confusion, or contamination.


                                                        incidentally, if you believe that the legal rules for handling organic produce is silly and obsessive, you should check out seafood haccp. these legal rules are to protect the consumer and make the u.s. food supply safer. would you have us dismantle the legal food handling requirements for slaughterhouses? canneries? considering that these procedures are mostly borne by the agricultural sector, shippers, handlers, warehouses & retailers, i don't get the consumer resistance in this thread. nobody's saying you can't commingle organic and conventional stuff in your own shopping bag or fridge, just to be courteous to other shoppers by not mixing chem produce with organic. it's no different than saying "don't use the peanut scoop for the chocolate covered raisins--food allergies" "don't place chemical cleansers on the fruit--poison."

                                                        1. re: soupkitten

                                                          Well, we do think it's different from "don't use the peanut scoop for the raisins"--that's the point. No matter how much people want to avoid pesticides or what-not, few rationally believe that a molecule of it will harm them in the way a speck of peanut might harm someone with a deadly allergy. So it seems more like saying "I'm on a low-carb diet, so don't you dare use the same cutting board for my vegetables that you used for your bread." I understand that the certification laws are and should be more stringent, but I do feel the idea that organic food will get cooties from non-organic food is comical.

                                                          1. re: BostonCookieMonster

                                                            If you really really believe that an organic item is immune from contamination because of certification laws, I really think you may be kidding yourself. No matter how hard people try, contamination is going to occur. Starting at the fields themselves with runoff from non-organic fields. It's just going to happen.

                                                            And no one is going to die, unlike the peanut scoop for the raisin scenario, as you point out. It's not even in the same ballpark.

                                                            1. re: dagwood

                                                              Fileds with the potential of run-off from conventional fields are not certified.

                                                            2. re: BostonCookieMonster

                                                              we're also not talking about carbs, or "cooties", we're talking about poisons. they build up in the body over time, and while most people accept some degree of poison ingestion, others can't afford to. it was commonly thought up until very recently that second-hand cigarette smoke was harmless, and that the "cooties" couldn't affect anyone besides the smoker.

                                                              many folks who have compromised immune systems, are predisposed to certain cancers, etc. make the choice, for health reasons, to avoid certain synthetic chemicals on their food, in favor of clean products. we can argue scientific data on whether or not various synthetic pesticides, fungicides, herbicides, etc are harmful to human health until the cows come home--it's off topic-- the point is that a segment of consumers have chosen to pay for certified organic products, & they're entitled to get what they're paying for. same as a consumer paying for an armani suit-- they don't want to pay the armani premium to get the marshall's knockoff. a pregnant person, for example, may go to the organic retailer with the intent of getting food that is as clean as possible, at whatever price-- she shouldn't have to accept fruits that have been contaminated in the truck, sink, or bin by such chems as iprodione, captan, vinclozolin, and endosulfan. the retailer should use the handling procedures to ensure that she gets a product that is safe to consume during her pregnancy. to me, it seems like common sense, and i think that it's too bad that some folks don't respect other people's choices, or think that they don't have to behave any differently around different types of food. the retailers have put out gentle signage to try to increase awareness and get minimal cooperation from customers. in return, they're getting a bunch of flak from folks who apparently are too immature to follow some simple "house rules" (otherwise known as courtesy toward others) in a supermarket.

                                                              the u.s. is quite far behind the e.u. and other areas of the world on folks' understanding of these issues. the fact that WFM is the point of reference on this is pretty sad imho. americans have grown so used to prepackaged food in a box that many have forgotten how to select and treat different foods. americans at the supermarket treat an apple the same way as the box of mac & cheese. the vast majority don't connect food with their general health and well-being, and want to write off those who do make the connection as a bunch of cooky hemp sandal wearing fruitcakes. the truth is that a huge group of people eat some/many items organic, you can't typecast all these folks as stinky hippies or nutjobs who talk to the cantaloupes in the store. heck some of the folks who were my biggest, snarkiest, rudest critics a few years ago for going organic/local with my business, are now finding themselves on strict natural foods diets, for health reasons.

                                                              1. re: soupkitten

                                                                In my mind, you still seem to be missing the point. Buying an Armani is fine. It's no less an Armani if it's on the rack beside the Marshall's knock off.
                                                                I really take this sign as a bit of a scare tactic. "Oh no, cooties are that bad that merely putting my food on the table were NO food was may be harmful"??? Pleeeeez!!!!
                                                                Again, I'm not saying wash fruits in the same water. If there really are significant amounts of chemicals on them then yes, I can see cross contamination. Or in the same bin a mistake can be made.

                                                                The thing is, the rain falling on the crops and soil isn't organic and I would suggest as bad as the chemicals they put on them. As are the diesel fumes you're breathing standing at the bus stop.


                                                                1. re: soupkitten

                                                                  Your statement, "... we can argue scientific data on whether or not various synthetic pesticides, fungicides, herbicides, etc are harmful to human health until the cows come home..." is largely false. We know that pesticide residues are harmful; and we know the relative degree of toxicity of the different pesticides. There is no difference between foods grown with inorganic vs organic fertilizers, however--albeit many American and European consumers are convinced that there is a difference.

                                                                  1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                                    i agree Sam. the scientific community knows pesticide residues are harmful, and in many/most cases the safe limit of ingestion/exposure has not yet been determined. you know it, i know it, people who know what pesticides are and how they affect biological systems know, absolutely, they're harmful. but a lot of people don't want to acknowledge what pesticides are, how they function, that there are many types, that they affect people very differently, and that some of them are more dangerous at certain stages of life. lots of people want to justify saving 18 cents a pound on produce by saying that it has to be safe and wholesome, it's on sale at price chopper or whatever, how could chile possibly use pesticides that are illegal to use in the us and then ship the produce back here etc. . .

                                                                    unrelated to danger, but related to cooking: i think there are texture and performance differences in produce grown with inorganic/organic fertilizers--that can translate to the flavor of the finished food. synthetic nitrate fertilizer will "bloat" produce with excess water in the cells. this leads to watery taste in fruit and excess water issuing from vegetables while they cook, and hastens spoilage. the vegetables will steam themselves to mush while you are trying to caramelize them, or otherwise cook unpredictably-- particularly notable in celery and potatoes. after cooking exclusively with organic & sustainable non-chem produce for some time, & then trying to work with conventional-- ick, nothing works right! for that reason, apart from flavor, poison level, what have you, i'd make a case that organic produce *performs* better for the cook. anybody who says differently has never made five kinds of soup from scratch every day for a year. :)

                                                                    1. re: soupkitten

                                                                      There are really no "safe" thresholds of pesticide intoxication, as effects are cumulative. A little is bad. More is worse.

                                                                      The key, however, is the quantity of pesticide residue left on your produce. In most cases even a non-organic product will have NO detectible pesticide residue--and this is how it is supposed to be for all conventionallly grown crops. Yes, cheating in both production and in the process of food certification (yes, conventionally grown food has to be certified in terms of pesticide residues) occurs and is a reason to eat organic. But, if the food monitoring system was better, there would be less biological imperative to eat organic.

                                                                      As to the difference between produce grown with organic vs. non-organic fertilizer--please believe what you will. My training in or as agronomy, plant physiology, cook, and Hound says that there are many, many factors that lead to differences in taste and texture and the like--but that organic vs inorganic fertilizer is maybe the last of 20 variables.

                                                            3. re: Davwud

                                                              Obsessiveness and ignorance are in the eye of the beholder. Living in the Boston area and being in the health care field, I have been amazed at the numbers of people who have stories of healing or lessening their illnesses or symptoms there-of due to changing to a specific diet, usually organic in some significant way. They've been told it's all in their head, usuallly by the doctors who couldn't help them in the first place.

                                                              They and many consumers believe organic foods are healthier and don't want them intermingling with conventionally-grown foods. If you don't, well good for you. Any food marketing is going to try to persuade food buyers of the merits of their products and we're all susceptible to it in some way. Example: how many people drink tap water vs. bottled?
                                                              What use is it to chide bottled water drinkers that they are duped fools? They've decided tap water is not as good so they are drinking water that is marketed as better for them. Is it? I don't know.

                                                              I won't mock people who want their organics apart to the fullest extent possible from non-organics. If that's their thing, so it goes.

                                                              1. re: three of us

                                                                I agree completely with you on all of that. The thing is, that's not what is in question here. Should WF be putting up these signs and for that matter, should certain "Authorities" be telling you stuff when it truly suits them financially??
                                                                As I said before, if you don't want your coffee "Tainted" no problem. Just do sell me this business that it really does affect the coffee.


                                                                1. re: Davwud

                                                                  I think part of it is that you have to draw a line somewhere (and someone made the point above, which I can't verify, that it's necessary for certification). They're being as strict as they can so they don't have to make an arbitrary distinction. If fruit is cut on the same cutting board, probably not a problem but what if they scoop all the juices from hundreds of conventional fruit into organic fruit? What would they say, it's okay for 10 fruit? What about 15? It's safer to say none and let people decide.

                                                                  On the extreme end, not being a cannibal, I wouldn't be comfortable eating at a place that serves people, literally, and uses the same cutting board for my food, even if they wiped it off.:-)

                                                        2. I don't understand organic. I was talking to an organic rice grower. He talked about taking conventional fields organic and had some market for the transitional crops grown during the waiting period years, then he puts them into organic production and gets about three years out of them before sending them back into conventional. What I got out of this is that he mines the soils for the nutrients that were banked conventionally, phosphates and potassium, marketing that produce for a premium, then the fields out of organic production so that more can be added. These seems like more serious contamination than anything that could happen at a retail outlet.

                                                          Also, the nitrogen sources for grain production may source organically but there are large energy inputs to concentrate that material enough to make application to large grain fields manageable.

                                                          1. It seems to me that the term organic has ruffled some feathers. I’m the pain in the butt kind of guy when I walk into a food store or restaurant. I’m the person who knows what I like, no one can tell me any different. I’m very open to trying new and different foods. Heck I’ll try anything once. That being said, what is important for me when it comes to my food is taste and cost. Taste is subjective, but cost is something else.
                                                            What is the cost of an apple from New Zealand and one from down the road? Can burning all that jet fuel really be good for anyone? We still have jet fuel right?
                                                            What is the cost of spraying insecticides and herbicides? Does anyone want to eat insecticides or herbicides? What are the bees saying about all the insecticides and herbicides, even if bees could speak, you first have to find one.
                                                            Can there be a difference between a chicken or a cow that does not need antibiotics to live because its living conditions would otherwise kill it?
                                                            Can an egg from a chicken that is not stuck in a cage, which is not hooked on antibiotics and god know what else be good?
                                                            Is there any difference between greenhouse tomatoes in January and one from a field in September? Some of my Italian friends go to great deal of trouble to can tomatoes in late summer, is there really any difference? What is the cost to run a greenhouse in January? If we had no greenhouses running in the winter would that mean that there would be less nuclear waste to dispose of?
                                                            In French there is a term used to describe wine, its called terroir which means the flavour the earth gives to the wine. It’s more than just the earth, it’s the climate of that region, how much sun, in short any condition that contributes to the growing of grapes. After all one does not make wine, one grows wine.
                                                            Last I checked one does not make food, one grows food. I suppose if you believe you are a product of your environment then you might have some issues with the current state of our food. If not, then I guess you don’t visit the LCBO (liquor store) as often as I do and all is well.

                                                            10 Replies
                                                            1. re: Pastryrocks

                                                              I'm the OP. While certainly conversations can move on and develop and it's been really interesting for me to learn about the stringent controls required of all commercial handlers of organic produce, that wasn't what I was asking about. I was asking very specifically about signs addressed to WF customers reminding them that to preserve the organic integrity of their bread, they shouldn't have it sliced at the store and to preserve the organic integrity of their organic coffee beans, they shouldn't use the store's grinder, etc. To be clear, I am not in any way criticizing or snickering at or questioning, some people's preference for organics and, of course, people buying something labelled organic should be able to be sure that it is organic and that it hasn't been contaminated by the very chemicals they are trying to avoid. (Although, come to think of it, if my local WF stores are carefully segregating organic and conventional produce in the displays, always storing organic over coventional, making sure they don't touch, etc, I haven't noticed. I'll have to look.)

                                                              While I can well understand that water dripping from conventional onto organic produce might transfer a sufficient amount of chemicals that it would contaminate the organic arugula, I am truly hard pressed to believe that using a bread slicing machine on conventional bread and then organic bread would result in scientifically detectable contamination of the organic bread with pesticides etc used in the production of conventional bread ingredients. So far, while there have been lovely and eloquent defenses of the purity and deliciousness of carefully grown and lovingly handled organic produce, no one has convinced me that the person who feels she must avoid the slicer which touched conventional bread is really avoiding anything but cooties.

                                                              1. re: marcia2

                                                                Marcia, it's probably not significant to you, but it may be to some people. Personally, I wouldn't care. But I do know people who can be strict about these things. In your original post, you make a comment about keeping kosher and how it's spiritual/ritualistic/religious. Some people treat the organic thing like a religion.

                                                                And I do think it's a legal/certification thing with things like the coffee grinder. If you get organic coffee beans ground up at Whole Foods, unless there's a separate grinder for organic beans only, that ground coffee can no longer be considered organic by legal definition.

                                                                1. re: marcia2

                                                                  My problem with the whole thing is I really really really find it difficult to believe that anything nowadays can be completely 100% pesticide/chemical free. Try as you might to adhere to a strictly organic lifestyle, those little buggers are bound to find their way in there somehow. Can you drastically minimize? Yes, clearly. But eliminate altogether, seems very unlikely, for all the aforementioned reasons. Because of this, I think the notion that residual crumbs are going to add any discernable amount of chemicals over and above the unavoidables sort of unconvincing.

                                                                  That being said, I do support both organic and local foods (local holding higher priority in my book), so the argument about why organic is better is a bit misplaced. I don't think the OP was questioning whether organic was better, just whether that small amount of chemicals is significant in any way.

                                                                  Of course, just throwing all the regulations out the window would be misguided. We have to have some degree of control, or else the term "organic" would be meaningless. But worrying about residual crumbs contaminating organic food seems to me a bit like people not eating veal because of the way the animals are treated but chowing down on commercial eggs (egg chickens are some of the worst treated animals in agriculture.) You sort of miss the big picture a little bit, and surely those efforts would be better served directed at a bigger environmental problem.

                                                                  1. re: dagwood

                                                                    a lot of the stuff is *very close* to 100% pesticide/chem free, though--especially if it's been handled correctly. so to me, it doesn't make sense to loosen up the rules at one end of the circuit. it doesn't make sense to have everyone taking extra precautions along every step of the organic process only to bung it all up at the end (unless the customer doesn't care and does it themselves-- go ahead, man, nobody's stopping you).

                                                                    also re: "organic is 'better.' " better will be different depending on who you talk to. great that you prefer local-- i do too. organic may not necessarily be "better," but it is "organic"-- and the pregnant lady, or the cancer survivor, care that the product is certified chem-free organic for their own health reasons. they don't necessarily care about how commercial egg chickens are treated, that's a completely different food product and issue, and i'm not sure how it relates to keeping the certification on organic foods.

                                                                    i don't go to the op's local WFM, so i don't know how obnoxious the signage is, but it sounds like they're just legal & factual statements: "if you dump your organic coffee/bread in our grinder/slicer, be aware that it won't be organic anymore." can't really argue with a statement of fact, and nobody's standing there with a gun making you grind your coffee at the store, or not--the customers' choice affects only themselves-- what's the big deal?

                                                                    intermixing conventional and organic food, sullying the organic scoop, though, these are organic retail store faux pas-- not because the crunchy hippy lady's gonna put down the cantaloupe she's talking to and shove her hemp sandal up the sullying party's backside ;-) but because it's inconsiderate. it's rude to folks who are trying to make a choice for themselves, which you may or may not share-- whatever. the no pooping in the sandbox rule is a pretty old one.

                                                                    1. re: soupkitten

                                                                      It has nothing to do with eggs, and I did not state that it did. I was making a comparison, i.e., not seeing the big picture. (I was talking specifically about people who don't eat veal because of animal cruelty but still eat eggs). And I never stated, nor would I, that people that prefer to eat organic and keep things that way were crazy cantaloupe talkers. To each his own, and that's fine. I was expressing my personal opinion that I think there are probably bigger offenders of toxins in one's environment that can be dealt with before something fairly miniscule.

                                                                      My whole foods has the signs, and when I ask for my organic bread to be sliced, they inform me it's no longer organic. Doesn't offend me or bother me in any way. I don't switch the scoops or in any other way contaminate the organic section of my market. I'm just suggesting that there are bigger fish to fry than residual crumbs. I'd love to find out the toxin level of a loaf of organic sliced on the regular slicer. I'm pretty sure it wouldn't amount to poop in a sandbox.

                                                                      1. re: dagwood

                                                                        hey i appreciate your point. in my last paragraph (which was intended to be largely light-hearted and humerous-- i do hope i come across as a person with some kind of sense of humor) i was not really referring to "you, Dagwood"-- it was more "You, the Customer" and i was responding broadly to the many folks upthread who have stated that they don't see a problem mixing organic and conventional scoops, and who've put forth the opinion that anyone who chooses an organic item at the market, and actually expects it to be clean, has some sort of mental disorder. i'm not attacking any particular poster here, i think everyone's entitled to their opinion-- i just think that more work goes on behind the scenes in clean rooms and walk-in coolers and warehouses and shipping trucks to keep organic foods' certification intact than a lot of consumers realize. it's good to hear that not everyone is a scoop-sullying fruit-mixer, thanks from all the earnest produce managers and grocery stocking staff for that awareness.

                                                                        i hope that as food awareness grows that more people begin to see a piece of fruit as something that grew somewhere, and was planted, cared for and harvested by *people,* rather than as a product, like a bottle of soda, which was produced with synthetic ingredients and packaged by machines. if people could take their food attitudes back to a basic respect for ingredients, you wouldn't see these disturbing behaviors in supermarkets. although i've noticed in the co-ops that a lot of really young kids know how to treat the produce, so that's good.

                                                                        i can't speak to the bread-crumb hangup. i'm sure there are really very few people who actually care about this issue, it's just that it's a dang fact that when you slice organic bread on a conventional slicer, it's no longer organic-- it's not about the "toxin" level. someone, somewhere will care about it, hence the signage, which keeps everyone legal, certified, insured, etc. i can pretty much promise that the store's decision to only have one bread slicer, a couple of coffee grinders, etc that are used for both organic and conventional was an economic one rather than anything else. coffee grinders and bread slicers are indeed small potatoes to the majority of folks, though those who are very concerned can take their items home to be ground and sliced. the meat slicer, or the produce wash sink, on the other hand-- that's a bigger concern, which is why organic retailers have all-organic meat prep areas and all-organic produce clean sinks, separate from the conventional areas, but they generally do not maintain separate bread slicers, taking up the floor space, and doubling the cleanup of these areas, which people must be paid to do. . . again, all of this seems like bone-basic common sense to me, so i'm sure i'm missing something. why the criticism of the retailer for using one machine with proper, posted signage, and training the staff to tell the customer verbally as well, of the status of their loaf after slicing? sounds like proper procedure & good customer service to me, not something to give them guff about.

                                                                        1. re: soupkitten

                                                                          I think we are actually pretty much in agreement on this. Also, I think that Kochav's point below is a good one. One person's reasonable signage is another's persnickety hangup. Or something like that......

                                                                  2. re: marcia2

                                                                    Cooties aside, cross contamination happens quite often, however, the consequences of non-organic bread crumbs mixing with organic bread is not life threatening. The monetary cost of organic loaf of bread is rather dear in my experience, and so would a few crumbs upset me, no. Can I make a ‘reasonable’ argument as to why there should be two bread cutting machines at Whole Foods one for organic and one for non-organic, no in my opinion I believe I can’t. However, the prices Whole Foods charges they can afford more than two. But then that may not be socially responsible either.
                                                                    One of the reasons why I eat organic is because I do not want to eat insecticides, herbicides or any ‘cides’ for that matter. So I don’t feel that a few crumbs will poison the whole loaf or me, however, I do understand the concern. If you can see the crumbs in the machine and then on your loaf of bread, then you do not need any scientist to tell you that your 100% loaf of organic bread is no longer 100% organic. Why purchase a 100% organic loaf if it is only 99.999% organic?
                                                                    See I told you I could not make a reasonable argument. But I do agree with soupkitten, it is a question being considerate to others, part of the reason why people go organic.
                                                                    My above rant was more to those who attack the whole organic industry.

                                                                    1. re: marcia2

                                                                      It seems like the snicker is being caused by the sign's language. Compare the phrase that marcia initially mentioned:

                                                                      "preserve the organic integrity"

                                                                      with how soupkitten paraphrased the sign:

                                                                      "if you dump your organic coffee/bread in our grinder/slicer, be aware that it won't be organic anymore."

                                                                      The second is more straightforward, hence less snicker--y. Better yet might be something like "If you are buying organic coffee/bread, please be aware that this grinder/slicer is also used by customers purchasing conventional coffee/bread." That alerts those who are concerned, while not making those who buy organic but who don't care about a few crumbs/grains feel like they're somehow not good enough.

                                                                      1. re: Kochav

                                                                        ooooooooooohhhhh. now, that does make sense, i guess. but i think that most people would like the original sign, & not the way it would come out of my big yap. i agree that your 3rd draft is an improvement. its less nebulous, which i like.

                                                                        i wonder what the op thinks-- i think the vagueness of "preserve the organic integrity" may have fed into the whole wispy spiritual/hippy tangent, which is really a disservice to those who eat organics for very practical health reasons. also based on other posts above, i'm not sure if folks' reactions are coming from the language of the signage, or the thought that there are suddenly extra rules to follow when dealing with certified organic stuff, and they're like, how *dare* that stockboy tell me how to shop for groceries, or something.

                                                                  3. But Marcia it IS greener than thou nonsense.
                                                                    Also saves the seller from performing the customary services like slicing, resulting in more profit.
                                                                    Funny if not so sad.

                                                                    1. You're completely missing the point. They post those signs because people ask them to set up an Organic Only coffee grinder. Yes they do. The store is cutting them off at the pass by telling them how to manage it themselves.

                                                                      1. After reading "Naturally" by Michael Pollan, I think that some of this stuff is pretty absurd. Organic is not what many people think. I strongly doubt that the clean room mentality about separating Organic from Conventional foods is followed as rigorously as some believe during transportation, processing and storage of Organic products.

                                                                        I found it particularly revealing that most Organic farms are essentially giant agribusiness outfits, that the Organic regulations allow additives in processed foods and that Organic is not at all synonymous with humane in relation to meat and animal products (milk and eggs).

                                                                        Frankly, isn't Organic food that is shipped in from outside the US or across the country kind of an oxymoron? Thousands of gallons of fuel being used to get you your fresh Organic strawberries and milk from thousands of miles away doesn't seem very healthful to the planet. To me, Organic is supposed to signify sustainability, quality, freshness and low impact. Those in the industry would laugh at these quaint notions.

                                                                        I think I'll stick to increasing the food production in my backyard and avoid some of the smugness associated with Organic. That, my friends, is truly organic--low impact, healthful and sustainable. That, and buy from local producers whenever possible.


                                                                        2 Replies
                                                                          1. re: meadandale

                                                                            This is silly. I try to buy local and organic whenever possible. I don't give a hoot if the "scoops" are used for non-organic stuff.

                                                                          2. The question of liability may be valid, though I don't know that it would bear the same weight as, say, a vegetarian whose veggies came in indirect contact with meat. I have a brother who works for Trader Joe's and he tells me that organic fanatics do indeed insist that their produce not touch the conventionally grown stuff. No, it probably doesn't matter in such microscopic amounts, when it comes down to it. For many of us, the choice is more an environmental one, and that effect has already happened when we make our purchases.