Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Current Food Lingo

As we have become more interested in the quality of our food and where it comes from, producers have begun to use different terms on packages. It is important to know exactly what these terms do and do not
mean, so you can decide if a product is right for your family and budget. Here are some brief definitions to help:

ORGANIC FOOD – The National Organic Program of the USDA (US Department of Agriculture)
regulates all farming, wild crop harvesting, and handling operations that seek to sell products as organically produced. Organic crops are grown without common fertilizers, including petroleum- and sewage  sludgebased fertilizers. Animals are given only organic feed, have access to the outdoors, and are not given growth hormones or antibiotics. USDA also regulates the importing and labeling of organic products from other countries. Unless certified by USDA, foods and beverages may not be marketed as organic.

NATURAL FOOD – Despite the widespread use of the term on food packages, no government agency has a precise definition for ‘natural’ (as of 12/08). In general, to be called natural, a product must be free of artificial or synthetic ingredients or additives, including color, flavor, or any ingredient “not normally expected.” This means that lemonade flavored with beet juice or cheese colored with paprika cannot be called natural. The Food and Drug Administration continues to evaluate natural claims while USDA is finalizing rules for the use of ‘natural’ on meat, poultry, and egg products.

LOCAL FOOD – Although ‘locally grown’ food is currently very popular, the term does not have a legal definition. One national chain defines local as anything grown in the same state as it is sold; another says that it is anything grown 7 hours or less from the store. The definition most commonly accepted by consumers
is that local food is grown within 100 miles of where it is purchased. You may want to ask exactly where a food was grown and/or processed. To get the freshest, safest, most local food, visit growers and develop personal
connections with farmers and ranchers.