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Sep 11, 2013 03:31 AM

Health hype in the kosher market--are our new kosher healthy choices truly better for us?

I started this with the new low-sodium lox in mind, but I'm curious to hear your thoughts on the other new, "healthier" options the kosher market is providing. i.e.: organic chicken, sugar-free...
BTW, I ran to scoop up the lox when it first came out because I need to watch my sodium. It was delicious and--to me--extremely salty. I have to put it aside now just like the other foods I had to cross off my list and reserve for special occasions only. What else are they selling us that isn't really worth the health hype?

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  1. Lox by definition is a cured product. I don't know how you do that without salt. Personally I think "Organic" is a hype. Organic certification is all about government regulations and certified organic ingredients further up the line, a lot of small producers can't deal with the regulations to be organic, yet they are probably better for you and the environment than most of the certified organic products from agro-business.

    16 Replies
    1. re: avitrek

      "Organic" is a scam from its very beginning. All food except water and salt is organic, no matter where it comes from. And there's no reason to suppose "organic" food is any better for you than the cheaper "non-organic" stuff.

      Sometimes it tastes better, because the kind of people who care about this nonsense also tend to be the kind of people who care about quality, so they end up making the best products. Or maybe it's because the smaller scale lets them take more care with it. That's why I often end up paying a premium for "organic" products, but I wish it weren't so. There's no reason "non-organic" can't be made just as good, and with as much care, but without the extra expense which is completely wasted.

      1. re: zsero

        Your definition of organic as "All food except water and salt is organic, no matter where it comes from," is the scientific definition of "organic." However, the popular understanding is very different. It may very well not be worth the extra money, and it may not be better for you, but it's clear that you could not get away with calling highly processed food "organic," even if it had no salt or water in it, and I'm not talking legally. Consumers would likely not put up with it.

        1. re: queenscook

          Here is the ingredient list for frozen French fries that I found in the organic section on fresh direct. There may have been no synthetic pesticides used in production, but I think this product would have to qualify as highly processed.

          1. re: avitrek

            I agree they sound highly processed, however Alexia does not call them "organic." Fresh Direct is classifying them as such, but they are not included in the organic products on Alexia's website.

            If you click on the nutritional info on the organic products, there are far fewer ingredients; here's one example:

            Again, I'm not recommending these, and I'm not saying they are healthy, but they do sound less processed.

          2. re: queenscook

            I am very aware of that, and that's why I wrote that the whole concept of "organic food" is a scam from the very beginning.

            1. re: zsero

              I'm not sure what you are saying you are "aware of" in what I wrote; I do not agree that it is a "scam," as you refer to it. I see a clear difference between the Alexia's "regular" fries and the "organic" ones. It still doesn't mean the organic are the healthiest food you can buy, but I definitely see a difference in the ingredients. And where I disagree with you the most is with the understanding and use of the word itself. Yes, the word "organic" can be used to mean any food other than water and salt, as you said, but that is only true in a scientific sense, as in the classes "Organic Chemistry" and "Inorganic Chemistry." That is not the understanding of the word when laymen use it.

              1. re: queenscook

                Nor is it the understanding of the US government which determines what can be called "Organic" in the US. For example both salt and water are clearly allowed in organic food, while pesticides that are scientifically organic would be banned.

                1. re: queenscook

                  Queenscook, you are 100% correct (and very patient!) in your differentiation of what is popularly considered organic and the scientific definition of organic.

                  1. re: queenscook

                    That's the scam. Take a scientific term that sounds good, redefine it in a completely arbitrary way, and convince gullible people that products which fit this new definition are superior to those that don't. And get the government to enforce this arbitrary definition, thus reinforcing the idea that products that fit it must be better in some way.

                    1. re: zsero

                      Sorry, as much as I think the organic hype is overblown, I think you're going too extreme in the other direction. I don't think it's unreasonable for people to say they don't want to eat food that was sprayed with poison(which is organic from a chemical perspective). Now the regulation that goes into proving that all products in a processed food are organic may be problematic, but at a basic level if someone wants food without pesticides(poison) and wants a label to tell them that, what's the problem?

                      1. re: avitrek

                        Additionally, there are various organic certifications out there just like heksherim. People look into how each certifying body holds on different food issues and buys accordingly. I imagine at least some of them consulted the logistical and legal frameworks used by kashrut certification agencies.

                        1. re: avitrek

                          Because there's no reason to suppose food that hasn't been sprayed with pesticides is better than food that hasn't been. But it's marketed as if it is some wonderful quality, and people are bamboozled into believing it. It's not much different from making up a word that means "no ingredients that begin with the letter P" and convincing people that it's a sign of quality and worth more money.

                        2. re: zsero

                          No actually it is a scientific term and it refers to the types of chemicals and fertilizers used in the farming process. They are synthetic i.e. not derived from living matter. If you're annoyed at the application of the terms "organic" and "non-organic" to food instead of the farming process understand that it's a shorthand to mean food produced through those processes and most consumers know that. I don't really think it's arbitrary. You can question the quality and if organic is really healthier or just marketed as such, but that's a different argument not the basis of your argument. Keep in mind that most of what was the organic community 20 years ago now cares more about sustainability and local sourcing. We should know all about this, as the kosher market is all about identifying the source for our meat, how it was raised, and how it was killed.

                          Organic isn't really a new trend in food, kosher or otherwise, so I'm not sure why you're bringing it up, and we shouldn't be throwing stones. How would we feel if on an organic message board someone started posting saying "I don't know why some people need to consume meat from hand killed animals . That's just marketing - it's not superior and if they didn't see the beef killed etc..."

                          Is calling chicken "glatt" a scam? what about the current trend towards chasidisha schechita?

                          1. re: apathetichell

                            If someone asks what makes kosher better, the answer is clear: because God said so. There's nothing physically superior about it, we're not making any medical or scientific claim, we're saying it's better for the Jewish soul, and we can prove it. Those who claim "organic" is better than 'non-organic" can't prove anything. It's all supposition. It's not like they're claiming God appeared to them and told them so.

                            1. re: zsero

                              Okay, jumping in here to say that health concerns aside, organic is *not* a scam for those concerned about the environment. There are people who buy organic not so much for the health concerns, but due to concerns about the environmental impact of the use of pesticides and fertilizers to grow crops. Pesticide downstreams are a major source of "dead zones" in places like the Gulf of Mexico. There is also evidence that dependence on chemical fertilizers has a long term effect on the health of the soil, leading to nutrient loss in the soil itself (affecting future crops and the food grown in those soils) and loss of the topsoil itself.

                              Before you write something off as a scam, it might be worthwhile to look into why people are interested in buying organic in the first place.

                              1. re: pickledtink

                                There is no reason to suppose the dead zones have anything to do with pesticides. Nobody even suggests that! There are some people who imagine it's caused by fertilizer runoff (whether organic or not), but there's no proof for that either. It's far more likely that they are entirely natural phenomena.

                                Nor is there any reason to suppose "organic" fertilizers are any better for the soil than "chemical" ones (whatever that really means, since everything is made up of chemicals). In any case, what's the soil *for* if not to be used?

              2. So the first thing I thought of was "bible crackers"
                All kinds of organic, sugar free, salt free hype... And it was broken chunks of matzah

                4 Replies
                1. re: cheesecake17

                  That's fair enough. It is all of those things. At least it isn't "Ezekiel Bread", which is supposed to be based on a recipe from Tanach, but if you actually read the relevant chapter you see that the result was intended to be horrible and disgusting, not healthy and tasty!

                  1. re: zsero

                    It wasn't intended to be horrible just that it made use of unpalatable ingredients as filler for the good ingredients - sort of like "Bread Helper". The goal was survival, not pleasure. For example, spelt on its own is pretty difficult to use but I like the quality it adds to multigrain breads.

                    1. re: zsero

                      Agreed, it is, but $5 for a small box....when you can get a heck of a lot of matzah for $5!

                      I actually like Ezekiel Bread!

                      1. re: zsero

                        We actually LOVE so many of the Ezekiel products, from the cinnamon raisin bread to the sprouted tortillas. Amazing products, made without flour. Worth a try!

                    2. I think the whole wheat options--in Israeli couscous, matza meal, etc...are wonderful and significantly healthier than their white flour counterparts.

                      Sugar-free doesn't sound healthy at all--I would avoid products labeled as such.

                      1. <<What else are they selling us that isn't really worth the health hype?>>

                        any type of brined/processed/cured meat and poultry.

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: westsidegal

                          Are they really claiming that's healthier, rather than merely tastier?

                          1. re: westsidegal

                            I don't think anyone claims that that is healthy. I just felt that there should be a rule against calling lox "low sodium." I thought they had thought of a new way to cure it and that I would be the happy beneficiary. I think it stinks when people market that way. I have experienced this with some kosher muffin/baked goods companies and their ridiculous low-fat claims.

                            1. re: cappucino

                              Remember those Scotto's biscottis??!!

                              1. re: cappucino

                                there are government standards as to what can be called low sodium, and the lox I saw said low sodium, but the sodium content listed would probably fall into the reduced sodium category. Note, I have not reviewed the standards.

                            2. imagine makes an organic kosher chicken broth. sounds good until I read the ingredients. it did not e shave what I would consider chicken in it. And, I am not referring to the parve No Chicken broth!