The reality of “Organic”

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The biggest selling point for most products on the market is the ‘organic’ label. Products ranging from food to cosmetics tend to have a higher status and pass a higher quality check amongst consumers if the product holds the ‘organic’ status. The organic trend is big internationally with the idea that if something is labeled organic, it should be natural and overall good for health. This tends to become confusing since nearly everything is labeled ‘organic’ yet some of the things that have that labeling include processed foods and mass-produced cosmetics. So what exactly does ‘organic’ mean with your products?

History of Organic:

‘Organic’ products were first introduced through food production and the most conventional way is through ‘organic’ farming. Historically organic farming included a decrease in the use of pesticides and GMOs. Initially ‘Organic’ was supposed to be a close synonym to the term ‘natural’.

The ‘organic’ status allowed companies to upsell their products since they lacked harsh chemicals in production and weren’t mass-produced. However, that term altered and changed with the rapid popularity of the idea of ‘Organic’ products and became a marketing strategy.

Who regulates ‘Organic’ products?

Believe it or not, the FDA is not in charge of regulating products with the term ‘organic’ on food or cosmetic labels. Technically, the National Organic Program (NOP) a branch within the USDA, gives the regulatory framework and the FDA enforces it.

Organic Foods:

There is an assortment of food products on the United States market that have the ‘USDA Organic’ stamp on their label. Organic food production is a self-regulated industry with some government oversight. When considering organic meat products, livestock must have access to pasture and not be pumped with antibiotics or growth hormones. When we are talking about processed organic foods, in theory they contain only organic ingredients. If a product contains non-organic ingredients, it must be significantly less than the number of organic ingredients present. According to current regulations, foods claiming to be organic must be totally free of artificial food additives and processed with fewer artificial methods, materials, and conditions such as chemical ripening, food irradiation, and genetically modified ingredients. However, in the United States, there are some exceptions for some organic products to keep that status even though some pesticides or GMOs are used.

Are Organic Foods Better for your health?

Organic doesn’t necessarily mean natural when we are talking about food. A common misconception with organic foods is the belief that the products labeled organic is safer, more nutritious, and better tasting than conventional foods. Ironically there is very little scientific evidence on whether organic is a benefit or harm to human health. As of 2012, the biggest scientific consensus is that while “consumers may choose to buy organic fruit, vegetables, and meat because they believe them to be more nutritious than other food…. the balance of current scientific evidence does not support this view.” The evidence of beneficial health effects of organic food consumption is scarce, due to the lack of long-term studies that would be very expensive to carry out considering the market price of anything labeled organic. However, studies that suggest that organic foods may be healthier than conventional foods face significant methodological challenges, such as the correlation between organic food consumption and factors known to promote a healthy lifestyle. In 2012 the American Pediatrics Association reviewed studies on organic foods and found that “current evidence does not support any meaningful nutritional benefits or deficits from eating organic compared with conventionally grown foods, and there are no well-powered human studies that directly demonstrate health benefits or disease protection as a result of consuming an organic diet.”

‘Organic’ Cosmetics

According to the FDA, there isn’t a regulatory definition of the term ‘organic’. Meaning the FDA can’t keep a cosmetic manufacturer from labeling their product as organic. The FDA follows the National Organic Program’s regulation for organic. In theory, to get the certification of ‘organic’ a manufacturer needs to prove that its ingredient content has a certain percentage of organic ingredients to meet that standard. Just like any other cosmetic on the United States market, anything labeled organic has to have correct labeling, not necessarily be accurate. With current laws, it is solely the responsibility of the manufacturer of cosmetics to disclose accurate ingredient content.

Are cosmetics made with “organic” ingredients safer for consumers?

In short, no. Technically an ingredient’s source does not determine its safety. For example, many plants, whether or not they are organically grown, contain substances that may be toxic or allergenic. So even though something may be ‘organic’ or ‘natural’ it doesn’t make it totally safe for you to use. According to current laws, companies, and individuals who market cosmetics have a legal responsibility to ensure that their products and ingredients are safe for the intended use, however, this isn’t enforced.

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