We often hear the terms “organic,” “locally grown,” “sustainable” and “natural,” but it can be difficult to understand exactly what these terms mean. The USDA’s National Organic Program (NOP) certifies organic food production, and only foods grown under certain conditions can be marketed as organic.
These certified organic foods are produced under certain conditions that are ecologically friendly, but research continues to help us better understand whether there is a nutritional advantage to organic foods. The NOP does not certify organic foods for food safety, although the risk of food-borne illness in both organic and conventional food supplies is low. In some instances, organically produced food may be marketed as conventional food if a producer elects not to seek the certification.
What practical steps can you take for you and your family when making choices related to organic foods? The USDA and other government agencies support the use of “locally grown” foods, whether they have been certified organic or not.
The USDA’s “Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food” initiative is dedicated to developing a direct connection between you and the farmers who grow your food. There are now more than 8,100 farmers markets around the country that are included on the USDA listing.
What’s the bottom line?
By Paula Bohlen, MS, RD, LDN, LNHA