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Supermarket Smackdown: 5 Tips for Buying Organic

September 6, 2012

In the ongoing debate surrounding the nutritional value of organic produce, according to recent findings, conventional fruits and vegetables may contain comparable doses of vitamins and minerals to their seemingly healthier counterparts.

That’s not to say we should go tossing all we’ve come to know and accept about organic foods out the window along with our summer whites. Stanford researcher and lead author of the study did confirm that organic fruits and vegetables had a 30 percent lower risk of contamination with pesticides than non-organic items.

When it comes to the perfect combination of supermarket smarts and a moderate approach to making healthy decisions, Zeel Expert dietitian and mommy blogger Laura Cipullo knows best. Here, we touch on a few key facts from this Registered Dietitian’s discussion on the importance of buying organic (you can find the article in full here).

1. Know the basics. The USDA recognizes six countries and more than 40 programs that meet the national standards of certification required to label a product as organic. If the item in question is approved by the National Organics Standards Board, then all circuits say go!

2. Beware of organic fraud. Imported products that are pre-certified before entering the country may be susceptible to “organic fraud.” While USDA-approved foreign organic inspectors are often employed to regulate organic products, pesticide testing is not always required. When possible, stick to what you know and opt for homegrown.

3. Be a locavore. While several European nations implement similar standards as those established in the United States, others, including Brazil, Sierra Leon and China, are more likely to ignore chemical and antibiotic requirements. In China, for example, organic products sell for nearly five times that of non-organic foods, increasing the incentive to commit organic fraud.

4. A market maven. Laura notes that specialty stores like Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods have taken specific measures in order to uphold the standards of their products, visiting foreign nations and conducting extensive research to preserve the integrity of the items they sell. Both markets even label the country of origin.

5. Do your best. On the quest to becoming smart, savvy consumers, we must also be realistic. Laura reminds us that it’s not the end of the world if a non-organic product manages to sneak its way into our shopping carts. Read labels, look for the US stamp of approval and promote sustainable farming by frequenting local markets.