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Do you clean organic produce? A scientific perspective.

June 27, 2010

Since we launched EAT CLEANER in 2009, there’s never been a more popular question.  What do we know about the big ‘O’?  A lot. 

When I first started my career in the marketing and advertising department for Alfalfa’s Markets, a respected natural and gourmet foods chain based in the wholistic mecca known as Boulder, CO 17 years ago, nobody knew what organic meant.  At least as it applied to food.  In the scientific sense, organic is defined as the following:

Of, relating to, or derived from living organisms: organic matter. 2. Of, relating to, or affecting a bodily organ: an organic disease.3. a. Of, marked by, or involving the use of fertilizers or pesticides that are strictly of animal or vegetable origin: organic vegetables; an organic farm. b. Raised or conducted without the use of drugs, hormones, or synthetic chemicals: organic chicken; organic cattle farming.c. Serving organic food: an organic restaurant.d. Simple, healthful, and close to nature: an organic lifestyle.4. a. Having properties associated with living organisms.b. Resembling a living organism in organization or development; interconnected: society as an organic whole.5. Constituting an integral part of a whole; fundamental.6. Law Denoting or relating to the fundamental or constitutional laws and precepts of a government or an organization.7. Chemistry Of or designating carbon compounds.

n. 1. A substance, especially a fertilizer or pesticide, of animal or vegetable origin.

2. Chemistry An organic compound.

Back then, we had quite a task on our hands.  Helping to designate and define the difference between commercially grown and certified organic produce was an arduous endeavor, especially when it came to a non-granola, patchouli wearing, dreadlock rasta kinda crowd. Back then, certified organic produce was 2 or 3 times the price and didn’t last more than a few days.  But the benefits to the environment and our health certainly helped to convert many a fruit and vegetable eater and fast forward almost 2 decades and ‘organic’ is a ubiquitous label you see across supermarket chain aisles nationwide with a product that looks and tastes better than conventional.

Now our task is to help people understand what organic farming is really all about and why cleaning with a substance other than your tap water is so important.  According to Dr. Ibrahim, chief scientific advisor for EAT CLEANER and Ph.D. Environmental Science, M.S. Agriculture, organic farming relies on crop rotation, green manure, compost and biological pest control.  Organic farming excludes or strictly limits the use of synthetic fertilizers and synthetic pesticides, plant growth regulators, livestock antibiotics, food additives, and genetically modified organisms (GMO’s).  BUT not all organic pesticides are safer than synthetic/chemical pesticides.  The main organic insecticides used in the US are Bt (a bacterial toxin) and Pyretheum and while they are ‘organic,’ they are still pesticides.  How else would crops meant to feed a large group of people show up to your local store or farmer’s market without being eaten alive by bugs?  Not to mention, manure and compost are more likely to carry E.coli and for the combined reasons, you need more than water to clean the surface of your food.  When was the last time you dug your hands in the dirt and just gave them a casual rinse before eating?

If you need more proof, take a look at the slide show here of organic carrots from our local grocer.  I don’t know about you but just rinsing that sludge with water is not very appetizing.  The bottom line…organic may mean grown more sustainably but it still needs to be cleaned, and not rinsed.

“What does a concerned mother, wife, daughter, and doting grandmother of two do when she is concerned about food safety and cleanliness?  In addition to eating organic food, she uses Eat Cleaner!  The only solution (literally and figuratively!) to combat this problem is to clean my produce, fish and poultry with Eat Cleaner.  I stock my car with convenient, on-the-go wipes (wouldn’t leave home without them) and my kitchen counter with easy-to-use spray washes (in beautiful packaging) because for me, my family’s safety is the most important thing in life.”

– Joan Boykin, Executive DirectorThe Organic Center http://www.organic-center.org

Bon appetit!

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