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Strategic Organic Food Shopping
Emily Gertz, 23 Oct 07

Although eco-couture and all-green home design are fun, and worthy of admiration, they're green goods that are likely to be largely out of reach for many average Americans for some time to come: there are plenty of people who find it difficult, if at all possible, to shell out extra dollars for products that are more environmentally sustainable, or healthier.

With that in mind, apparently, (and no doubt with the knowledge that organic foods are taking up a lot more shelf space in even the average supermarket these days), Tara Parker-Pope of the "Well" blog of The New York Times has suggested five foods that families should buy organic, in order to significantly increase the percentage of organic foods that they're eating without taking a big hit in the wallet.

They're basically foods most families would call staples, such as milk: “When you choose a glass of conventional milk, you are buying into a whole chemical system of agriculture,'’ says [Pediatrician Dr. Alan Greene, author of the new book “Raising Baby Green"]. People who switch to organic milk typically do so because they are concerned about the antibiotics, artificial hormones and pesticides used in the commercial dairy industry...";

The others: potatoes (big in the American diet); peanut butter (kids eat a lot of it); apples (extremely popular both fresh and in juice); and ketchup.

Ketchup?! Yep. "For some families, ketchup accounts for a large part of the household vegetable intake," writes Parker-Pope. "About 75 percent of tomato consumption is in the form of processed tomatoes, including juice, tomato paste and ketchup. Notably, recent research has shown organic ketchup has about double the antioxidants of conventional ketchup."

Well, it's like a dietary form of realpolitik, I suppose: the short term goal is reducing pesticide exposure via foods. But the longer-term goal needs to be a healthy and affordable food supply, and successfully promoting better eating habits overall. America ought to be aiming a little higher than just getting organic ketchup into the hands of our citizens.

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I agree, Emily, with aiming high. I wrote my Organic Rx (which was briefly excerpted in "The Well") as a roadmap for changing agriculture and the way we eat. The first five steps, mentioned in Tara Parker Pope's great Times blog, are my favorite levers for easy quick change. The next five steps change the world.

And all of the steps are designed to help families spend food dollars strategically -- for themselves and for the planet.

For those who are interested, all of the steps and the scientific references, can be found at There is also a link to this in the Times blog.

Little steps, taken together, can make a huge difference.

Posted by: Dr Greene on 23 Oct 07

Well, disregarding entirely the fact that I think no one should be drinking milk in the first place for an astounding number of reasons, organic milk can be very tricky. You have to research the company, their practices, where exactly they're getting their milk from and how, and what controversies [such as those with Horizon] have arisen lately that need to be taken into account. While it's true that it's important to support organic milk versus regular milk if you absolutely must have it, with this product you need to go above and beyond just buying what's cheapest on the shelf.

Posted by: Terra on 24 Oct 07

I'd like to know more about what's wrong with drinking milk--organic or otherwise. My 13 year-old son drinks it (1%) by the gallon (and no, he's not overweight).

Posted by: Mal Gormley on 25 Oct 07

Seeing potatoes in this list is all well and good, but here in the UK I tend to find that you have a choice of conventionally grown in the UK, or organic from Israel (why.... this was even the case when I had perfectly decent ones ready to dig up from my garden this year, so time of year or climate can't be an excuse).

It's the whole "organic versus local" debate that the Soil Association are really looking at now, potentially not allowing air freighted goods to be called organic. (not good for the growers in developing countries, but I think that they would be better off aiming for Fair Trade status initially anyway as their people have to be treated well....)

Posted by: Jane on 29 Oct 07

Well, I figure that milk is the most important of all five products, considering that kids drink it daily. Now in Brazil we are facing a terrible and infuriating scandal with some milk producers, including Parmalat, adding chemicals like hydrogen peroxide and sodium hydroxide to hide or delay deterioration. Very few people today would have access to good quality milk and I wonder if it is condemned to extinction in the future.

Posted by: Sonia Cafe on 29 Oct 07



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