With Organic Foods On The Rise, Food Safety Issues Become A Bigger Concern

 By: Kathleen Hill
Because the popularity of organic foods have been rising dramatically since the 1960's, food safety regulations have intensified regarding the production and sale of these naturally grown foods. Technically, the growing of organic foods should exclude the use of any non-organic chemicals which are meant to prevent the emergence of diseases on food crops. Insecticides and fungicides are routinely sprayed on non-organic food crops which are very susceptible to such blight, but organically grown foods are not.

What is not commonly understood is the fact that there are particular chemical sprays that are permitted to be used on organic food because they fulfill organic standards and policies. Nicotine sulfate is one such chemical approved by the FDA. It comes from tobacco and will poison insects or other small mammals which attempt to consume organically grown food treated with it. Extracted from chrysanthemums, pyrethrum is another chemical regularly used in organic farming which kills insects and is considered one of the safest chemicals to use. In addition, the natural pesticide mineral sulfur has been used for hundreds of years to prevent fruit rot, blight, and mildew, while also repelling certain insects and spider mites. Occasionally, sulfur is utilized as a preservative for fruits, since they tend to decay fast and lose their appealing color.

The USDA is in charge of certifying organic foods and adheres to stringent guidelines, such as declaring whether a product is at least 95% organic before allowing such labels as "organically grown" to be put on the food product. In the United States, it is manufactured in accordance with the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA) adopted in 1999, and disallows any food that is genetically modified to be labeled as organic. Organically grown food can also apply to livestock, and appropriate regulations are also enforced to ensure that the meat produced is organic and naturally grown. Antibiotic or growth hormone used on organically raised livestock is prohibited, and these animals must be allowed access to pastures where they can graze on naturally growing grass rather than kept in stalls and fed synthetically treated grain.

Issues with food safety have caused many people who are wary of an overabundance of pesticides on their food to turn to organically grown foods. But other than being safer to eat, are they really more nutritious than conventionally-grown foods? Several experiments have pointed to the possibility that there may actually be no critical difference in the nutritional value of organic vs non-organic. However, when referencing the amount and type of pesticides used on these foods, a discrepancy occurs which indicates that organic may indeed be safer, since certain artificial chemicals such as food dye, have been implicated in certain kinds of cancers. However, while natural foods are viewed as a better food choice for a person's health, this perception may not be wholly correct, due to the fact that foods deemed organic may in fact contain a certain amount of pesticides allowed by the FDA. Organic foods also have a decay rate that is more rapid than non-organic foods and may lead to higher incidences of food poisoning.
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