In my last post, “Organic Redefined,” I expressed my surprise and concern towards the official definition of “organic.” However, I still believe in the health benefits of eating organic food. My research on what it means to be “organic” simply increased my knowledge on organic food and showed me that “organic” comes in several levels. At the top of pyramid (which equals the healthiest and most natural fresh produce) is organic food grown and processed by local farmers who willingly opted out of pesticide and growth hormone use on domestic plants and animals. As people who promote production of natural produce, these individual farmers are more likely to adhere to the strict production rules for organic food, thus ensuring the naturalness of the food.
The second most natural, safest, and healthiest foods are those that meet USDA’s criteria for organic food. Although not required to completely forgo pesticides, at least only pesticides deemed safe by USDA are used. Finally, the last category contains food with the highest possibility of being unhealthy, unnatural, or even contaminated and harmful to health. The foods in this category are consumed by most consumers, including myself.
Of course, the majority of the foods in the third category mentioned above are safe and healthy. Both the USDA and FDA regulate food production to protect consumers. Therefore, there is no reason to eat only organic food. However, the few foods that could be harmful to health due to contamination and illegal production methods may warrant purchasing selected items from the organic food store.
A January 25, 2011 article in The New York Times illustrates this occasional need to switch to organic produce. Titled “F.D.A and Dairy Industry Spar Over Testing Milk,” this articled by William Neuman reports on a dispute between the F.D.A and milk producers on milk testing. Because recent findings has suggested that some older milk cows sent to slaughterhouse s had illegally high levels of antibiotic (and illegal antibiotics too) residue s in their flesh, therefore raising the concern that the milk produced by contaminated cows also contain high levels of these antibiotics. The F.D.A. would like to test milk for contamination with antibiotics that are not legally allowed to be used in animals, painkillers, and even anti-inflammatory drugs such as flunixin. However, due to the time needed for testing, usually a week for these unconventional drugs, the diary industry is concerned with milk spoilage if they wait for test results and a possible costly recall if they decide to begin selling the milk and milk derived products before test results become available. Either way, the dairy industry found the proposed drug testing in milk costly and the damaging to business and profit. Therefore, strong opposition from diary industry has prevented the F.D.A from moving forward with its testing plans. With the F.D.A now hindered from preventing possibly harmful food from reaching consumers, it is now necessary for the consumers to step up to protect themselves.
Although we as the consumers can’t control compliance with animal drug use regulation, we still have the power to choose whether we would like to purchase possibility contaminated food or not. When the quality of the food has possibility been compromised, the consumers should consider switching to organic versions of the same food. In the case reported by Neuman, consumers should switch from regular milk to organic milk. After all, we know for sure what’s in organic milk.