Organic: Are we being spoilt?
When did supermarkets start carrying organic produce? Farm markets and health food stores have always been the staple providers but now it would seem that we can go buy our organic eggs, milk and sweet potatoes from our local supermarket chain.
Over the last few years, high-end supermarkets have been adorning their shelves with organic items but recently it would seem that even the lower-end chains are following suit. On a recent visit to one of these budget lead stores I asked the manager about this addition to the shelves and he simply answered that they were responding to a demand. People seem to want more organic produce readily available regardless of it costing more.
Sources predict that global sales will increase by 16% by 2020. Consumers are becoming more aware of the chemicals used to grow conventional fruit and vegetables and wish to lead a healthier lifestyle by reducing their consumption of contaminated food.
I am the first to be happy that organic food is becoming more and more accessible but I cannot prevent myself from asking the question if we are being spoilt. If we take spoilt in the sense of being indulged then yes we are. What was once a rare commodity is now becoming more accessible and more affordable. The difference used to be a matter of dollars but is now cents. Even the most frugal shopper could allow himself a bunch of organic bananas over conventional ones.
However, let us take spoilt as meaning damaged or sabotaged. It may seem dramatic but many advocates for the food industry are dismissing the organic food market and labelling it as a hoax as described by one below.
"Organic agriculture is an unscientific, heavily subsidized marketing gimmick that misleads and rips off consumers, both because of the nature of the regulations and cheating." Henry I Miller, Contributor, Forbes
Now, we must not take the statement above for the truth either. Many a debate about the organic and non-organic food industry exists and we will not be able to come to any conclusion without more extensive research.
What this statement does illustrate is that attention and informed decisions should be taken when purchasing products labelled organic. In North America, the USDA in the States and the CFIA accredited bodies in Canada certify if a product can be labelled organic or not. The government of Canada website states that a product must be over 95% organic in origin to hold the certification and/or this logo below.
When less than 75-95% in the products ingredients the logo is not allowed and nor is the label 'organic' but the percentage can be written on the label. With 75% or less in the ingredients the product may only contain organic claims in the ingredient list. These products may not use the logo.
Despite this strict certification process, companies have been known to cheat and wrongly claim organic certification, be awarded it and sell their products as such. A recent example in Canada highlights the vigilance required when labelling products. Supermarkets in Greater Toronto and New Brunswick allegedly sold conventional chicken products that have been falsely labelled as organic. This accusation was made by a former executive. She also went on to state that chicken products were being falsely labelled as antibiotic-free and animal product-free. The whistleblower did however state that it was unlikely the supermarket chains were aware that they were being shipped falsely labelled products. The fraud came from the suppliers themselves.
The question of being spoilt or actually spoilt is a difficult one to answer as like the organic certification process, there is no one answer. What one consumer is satisfied with, the other may not be. The best option is to stay informed and research your product and its origins.