There are many factors associated with large-scale food production that influence consumer attitudes. Dating back to 1938, the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA) was instituted to assure consumers that food had a sufficient quality standard and that it was not made with spoiled ingredients (Murano, 2003, p. 187). Many consider the FFDCA, to be the basis of modern food law and a statute that regards health as a standard of identity within the nutrition industry (Murano, 2003, p. 185). As noted in the press release, Rachel Carson’s 1962 Silent Spring exposed the use of pesticides by food manufacturers. Undoubtedly, pesticides are extremely toxic substances that cause a variety of teratogenic, mutagenic and carcinogenic effects (Murano, 2003, p. 194). In response to the damaging effects of cancer causing pesticides, United States Congress passed the Pesticide Residue Amendment in 1954 (Murano, 2003, p. 187). Moreover, the Delaney Clause (named after creator James Delaney) enacted in 1958, established a “zero tolerance” standard in respect to food containing pesticide residue (Murano, 2003, p. 186). However, problems pertaining to general food standards and pesticide use were only the tip of the iceberg for consumers.
As industry and technology evolved, so did food production and preservation. Consumers demanded and insisted on: food that would stay fresh longer, food that was lower in fat and food that was tastier. Today there are over 20 different types of food additives that are heavily utilized in food preparation (Murano, 2003, p. 198). For instance, products from leading nutrition companies practice the use of curing agents, flavorings and nonnutritive sweeteners to name a few (Murano, 2003, p. 198). It is no wonder that so many individuals are concerned with their food’s healthiness! This concern brings me to my next point: that of health claims.
According to the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act of 1990 (NLEA), food manufacturers can express, imply or characterize the relationship between their product and a disease/health-related condition, only if the relationship is one that is scientifically beneficial (Murano, 2003, p. 198). This fact has led to an increase in people who want and seek healthier nutrition. Recently, organic food has been developed to realize and satisfy this desire of consumers, whose intent is to consume wholesome food.
Organic foods were established under the Organic Food Production Act of 1990 (Murano, 2003, p. 208). During production, these foods do not come into contact with pesticides, genetically modified crops, irradiation or sewage acting as a fertilizer (Murano, 2003, p. 208). Furthermore, this standard outlines certifications that must be present on the labels of organic food. This certification guarantees that there are at least 95% organic ingredients with a maximum of 5% pesticide residue tolerance (Murano, 2003, p. 208). However, USDA organic authorizations are quite expensive and most small farms (which operate in the same “organic” manner) cannot afford the label. For example, farmers Don and Andrea Cascun from New York State operate a small farm in which they take every precaution to ensure their livestock and crops are grown naturally (De Laurentiis, 2013, para. 6). Unfortunately, most grocery stores purchase organic food from large factory farms, as they are able to offer bulk discount prices. The Cascuns’ food may not be labeled “organic”, but it is definitely grown all-naturally (De Laurentiis, 2013, para. 4). Another issue that arises when examining organic food, is the criteria used to classify a product. What is considered as organic? “Under the North East Organic Farming Certification regulations, an organic chicken could be raised in cages and given only a few minutes to roam on pasture as long as it's fed certified organic feed” (De Laurentiis, 2013, para. 3). Moreover, although organic food processing is checked to be GMO free, the actual final product is not tested and therefore potential GMO contamination could occur (GMO-awareness.com, 2011).
According to the official GMO awareness website (2011):
GMO contamination can happen any number of natural ways: via cross-pollination between GMO and non-GMO crops, from trace amounts of GMO ingredients found in animal feed, from seeds traveling by wind or by migratory birds that take root in the soil of an organic farm, and from ingredient suppliers that co-mingle various sources. (GMO-awareness.com, para. 5)
This entire discussion and all of the extensive debates conclusively boil down to one question: are organic foods more nutritious for us? Simply put, no. According to clinical trials piloted by Mayo Clinic (2014), “the researchers concluded that organically and conventionally produced foodstuffs are not significantly different in their nutrient content” (Picco, para. 5).
Food production and health issues are not a recent phenomenon in the nutrition industry. Dating back to 1938, legislation regarding food handling and standards was enacted to ensure consumer satisfaction. With the recent development of food additives, preservatives and genetically modified crops, buyers have turned to “organic” food for a more nutritious option. Although organic foods do have real health benefits (such as the discontinued use of pesticides and GMOs), conventional food is equally nutritious and much easier on the pocket book.
The real answer to this question is multifaceted. I could (and might) write an entire book trying to answer this question. I'm going to use an analogy like smoking to communicate why organic food is less harmful than non-organic food and why you should try to eat organic food.
Most people who smoke cigarettes smoke multiple cigarettes per day. It takes more than one cigarette to cause a heart attack or cardiac disease combined with a variety of lifestyle factors that come into play. The damage to the body, from smoking, occurs over a person's lifetime. Theoretically, the same occurs with chemical exposure from food and the environment.
What does smoking have to do with organic food?
Eating non-organic fruits, vegetables and other foods can be similar to smoking. Non-organic food, such as fruits and vegetables, are sprayed with a variety of pesticides (bug killers), herbicides (weed killer) and fungicides (fungus killer) to protect them from bugs, weeds and fungus. By eating non-organic dairy, meat, eggs and poultry, again, you may be exposing yourself to: chemicals that the animals/livestock may have consumed in their feed (hay and grains), residual hormone administered to the animal/livestock and/or medication that has been administered to the animal. By eating non-organic foods, you potentially expose yourself to these chemicals each time you eat or have a snack. Just like smoking, you are unnecessarily exposing your body to a variety of chemicals that may have effects on endocrine (hormones), genetic (DNA) and epigenetics (environmental factors that affect DNA). A couple good books on environmental toxins and their effects on people and animals is Our Stolen Future by Dianne Dumanoski, John Peterson Myers and Theo Colborn and Silent Spring, by Rachel Carson.
How much chemical am I consuming?
That's a great question and an equally difficult one to answer. The short answer is: it depends on how much non-organic food you consume and where it is grown. You are exposed to a variety of chemicals through air, food, water, toiletries, bedding etc; however, you can minimize the quantity of chemicals that reaches your gastrointestinal tract. The USDA uses a system of pesticide regulation called Maximum Residue Limits (MRL). The following information is from the USDA website:
More than 300 fruit, vegetable and nut commodities, as well as more than 270 pesticides approved for use on those commodities by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
More than 425 pesticide and veterinary drug residue tolerances in major export markets for hay, feed, grains, oilseeds, poultry, eggs, meat and dairy
But organic food is so d@3* expensive.
Yes. I know. It's really unfortunate that to eat healthier, you often have to spend more money. I look at it like this. Organic food is expensive but a disease process combined with pharmaceutical drugs is expensive (especially without insurance) too. When you compare the financial costs of organic food with the financial, physical, emotional, mental, social, time and spiritual costs of developing a preventable illness there is no comparison of cost. An investment in fresh, organic food is an investment in you on this earth. Eating organic will not help you live forever, but can certainly decrease your exposure to unnecessary chemicals; and with other healthy lifestyle choices, can help to prevent disease. Now, a great alternative to spending that money would be to grow your own garden and harvest your own crops. It's a fair amount of work depending on the size of the garden, but worth it come harvest time.
Bottom Line: You, it's all you really have.
I know. It's not all about you. It's really about other people, but being the best that you can be. Improving your fitness at all levels will help to ensure that you will be a better father, mother, brother, sister, aunt, uncle, grandmother, grandfather, friend, husband, wife, trucker, writer, athlete, engineer etc. Bettering your health is both directly and indirectly bettering the health of those around you.
Food recalls can cause public panic, especially within certain demographics such as children, pregnant women, older adults, and people suffering from certain serious diseases. Recalls are sometimes issued out of an abundance of caution, mislabeling of products, or a concern about a possible allergen. However, in some cases recalls can result from reports of people getting food poisoning or other food-borne bacterial or viral diseases as a result of contaminated foods.
What is a Recall?
A food recall is a voluntary action by a manufacturer or distributor to remove food from the market if it is believed that the food will cause illness or death. While the recall is voluntary, if there is a problem identified by the Food Safety and Inspection Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the manufacturer or distributor can be forced to issue a recall or the Food Safety and Inspection Service may seize the goods. The Food Safety and Inspection Service then follows up after a recall is issued to ensure that the recall is effective.
Can Recalls Ever Signal a Positive Change?
In 2015 there has been a reported increase in recalls of organic food. The reported recalls of organic food account for seven percent of food recalled, up from about one percent in 2013. While some may look at this increase as a sign that organic food is more dangerous than non-organic food, it is also a positive sign to others. This is because the increase in organic food recalls can be attributed to an overall increase in supply of organic food, which can be linked to an increased consumer demand for organic foods. Organic food is not likely inherently more dangerous, it is simply more readily available. The large scale commercialization of the organic farm that has come about in part due to the increased demand may also account for the increase in recalled organic food. Since a larger farm is able to grow more food and reach a greater market, any concern with produce from the farm would result in a larger recall.
Therefore, the increased recall numbers are somewhat proportionately rising with the rise in availability. Whether the increased demand is due to better marketing by organic food producers, or an increase in consumer awareness of the benefits of organic food, an increased demand is a positive thing for business people in the food industry.
The bottom line is that whether it is organic or non-organic, you should be careful when handling food and pay attention to national food recalls. It will not always be possible to avoid all contaminants in food, but you can take some basic food preparation guidelines that can help keep you safe. You can find out more information about food safety and recalls from the government website foodsafety.gov.
Contact a California Business Law Firm
If you own a business in the food industry and are looking for a dedicated and experienced law firm to offer you legal advice with pragmatic business solutions, contact The De Cárdenas Law Group, APLC. With offices in Los Angeles and San Francisco, the attorneys at The De Cárdenas Law Group, APLC can provide a wide range of solutions for your business needs.