Any item on sale at a grocery store labeled as “certified organic” should be just that — foodstuff grown or prepared without the use of synthetic pesticides and chemical fertilizers. Not just kind-of-sort-of, but completely.
That should be obvious, but decisions by the group that determines what can be labeled organic have thrown the worth of the organic label into question. Over the past decade, the National Organic Standards Board has approved 173 non-organic substances to be be used on food that can later be sold under the organic label. The inclusion of some of those substances — like the common ingredient baking soda, needed to make many breads — is less problematic than the inclusion of others, like carrageenan, an additive with a somewhat controversial health record. It’s often used to prevent dairy products from separating.
Some critics have blamed the decisions on the increasing influence of large corporations that buy up organic food companies. As those companies bite into a larger share of the market, the National Organic Standards Board must take steps to ensure that those companies maintain sufficient standards to receive the “certified organic” designation — not that the organic industry’s standards are being lowered to meet the needs of agribusinesses.
The nation’s growing interest in organics proves that more and more people want to make educated decisions about the food they feed themselves and their families. But consumers can’t make those decisions if they can’t trust the information on food labels.