Food safety issues coming out of China have increased the awareness and concern of US consumers. Issues like pesticides on tea leaves, and melamine in dairy have raised consumer awareness of where ingredients in manufactured food products come from, and have us seeking an easy way to identify “safe” products.
The recent article, Food industry urges Congress to reform food safety rules got me thinking about what food safety means to consumers, and how the USDA organic label might just be a de facto food safety label.
Food safety has different meanings depending on whether you view it from a food industry perspective or as someone shopping-the-aisles. From an industry perspective, food safety indicates the absence of conditions that cause food borne illness, and that food manufacturers and processors are maintaining practices to ensure food is safe. When it comes to consumers, food safety takes on additional concerns of allergens, pesticides, genetically-modified organisms (GMOs) and cloning.
Certified organic products take some of consumer’s safety concerns off the table.
According to the USDA National Organic Standards Board (NOSB), “the primary goal of organic agriculture is to optimize the health and productivity of interdependent communities of soil life, plants, animals and people.”
USDA certified organic products:
• Come from animals that are given no antibiotics or growth hormones
• Are produced without using conventional pesticides
• Are produced without fertilizers
• Are produced without synthetic ingredients or sewage sludge
• Prohibit the use of bioengineering (GMOs, Cloning) or ionizing radiation
• Are produced by farmers who emphasize the use of renewable resources and the conservation of soil and water to enhance environmental quality for future generations.
• Before a product can be labeled ‘organic,’ a Government-approved certifier inspects the farm where the food is grown to make sure the farmer is following all the rules necessary to meet USDA organic standards.
I’d go so far as to assert that even though it’s not perfect, USDA certified organic also indicates that your food has been grown and/or processed with attention to the health and welfare of those that would consume it.