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Organic Food Guide

Have you noticed the shelves, coolers, and freezers at your local grocery store are overflowing with organic foods these days? Ever wonder exactly what it means when food is labeled as organic? Are organic foods any healthier than non-organic food items?

Organic foods must meet certain standards established by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. According to the USDA, if the foods are grown, they must be done so without the use of herbicides, pesticides, or fertilizers created with sewer waste, or any unnatural ingredients. Animal products, including meat, poultry and dairy products, must be produced from animals that are only feed organic feed, without antibiotics or growth hormones. These animals must also be able to go outdoors rather than be constantly kept in cages or pens.

The USDA doesn't make any statements about organic foods being healthier or better for you than non-organic foods. However, the bottom line--organic food is clean and wholesome. Your body knows just what to do with it.

According to the Environmental Working Group, the growing consensus among scientists is that small doses of pesticides and other chemicals can cause lasting damage to human health, especially during fetal development and early childhood. Scientists now know enough about the long-term consequences of ingesting these powerful chemicals to advise that we minimize our consumption of pesticides.

EWG analysts have developed the guide on the left based on data from nearly 96,000 tests for pesticide residues in produce conducted between 2000 and 2008 and collected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The guide helps consumers make informed choices to lower their dietary pesticide load.

EWG research has found that people who eat five fruits and vegetables a day from the Dirty Dozen list consume an average of 10 pesticides a day. Those who eat from the 15 least contaminated conventionally-grown fruits and vegetables ingest fewer than 2 pesticides daily. You can find a detailed description of the criteria EWG used to develop these rankings and the complete list of fruits and vegetables tested at

Of course, even when buying organic foods, it's important to carefully wash all fruits and vegetables. Likewise, all meat and poultry should be
thoroughly cooked before eating.

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