Organic fresh produce sales in 2020 soared to over $8.54 billion, an increase of $1 billion over 2019. But experts say that sometimes it is not worth spending the extra money on organic products since not all organic food is superior to conventional brands.
For example, according to Dr. Mirkin.com, a study of 55 brands of rice published in the journal “Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety” found that organic rice contained significantly more arsenic than non-organic samples.
However, a recent Pew Research Center survey showed that 50% of Americans believe that organic foods are better for you, says Dr. Gabe Mirkin.
“Manufacturers have taken advantage of this belief and sell organic clothing, water, soap, cosmetics — just about everything that touches our body,” says the renowned expert. “However, the U.S. government control over the use of the label ‘organic’ is lax because there are few government agencies or contractors to check the production of organic products.”
To help consumers sort out the good, the bad, and the ugly facts about organic and conventional foods, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) has come to the rescue over the years with data and information.
Dr. Thomas Galligan, Ph.D., an EWG toxicologist, says that his organization recommends buying organic whenever possible.
“Research has repeatedly shown that eating organic produce is an effective way to dramatically reduce exposure to toxic pesticides,” he tells Newsmax. “A diet high in organic food has been linked to a variety of important health benefits, including improved fertility, lower BMI, reduced incidence of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, and lower risk of type 2 diabetes.”
EWG knows that organic produce may not always be available and affordable for every consumer, so they publish a Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce™ each year. The guide, which includes their Dirty Dozen™ and Clean Fifteen™ lists, ranks fresh fruits and vegetables based on pesticide testing data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
“Choosing organic is particularly important for items on the Dirty Dozen list, as these have the most pesticides on them. Items on the Clean Fifteen list have the least, so consumers can buy these fruits and vegetables in their non-organic forms without compromising on pesticide exposures,” says Galligan.
Galligan says organic packaged foods may also offer health benefits over non-organic options. He explains that federal regulations limit the types of ingredients allowed in packaged organic foods, particularly prohibiting synthetic ingredients that have been shown to harm human health or the environment.
Fewer than 40 synthetic substances are allowed in organic packaged foods, compared to thousands of synthetic preservatives, flavors, colors, and other ingredients allowed in conventional packaged foods. Many of these synthetic ingredients have been linked to cancer, hormone disruption, and harm to developing children. Choosing organic can help consumers avoid exposures to these harmful chemicals, says Galligan.
Consumers can use EWG’s Food Scores Database to identify non-organic packaged food items free from concerning synthetic additives.
Mirkin says that both he and his wife, Diana, support organic farmers and often buy organic produce themselves.
“All the scientific evidence supports the fact that people who eat the most fruits and vegetables, along with whole grains, beans, nuts, and seeds markedly reduce their risk of heart attacks, certain cancers, strokes and diabetes,” he says. “And I still recommend washing all produce under running water to remove bacteria and chemicals whether they are organic or not.”
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