I returned from Trader Joe’s with several bags full of
organic produce and frozen goods today.
It cost me substantially more than it would have at a regular grocery
store, but I figured it was worth it since the food was probably of higher
quality. It also seemed that I might be
helping small farmers by purchasing goods there, which pleased me. And yet I had this nagging feeling that maybe
this was a marketing ploy… that the “experience” of Trader Joe’s was what I was
Trader Joe’s is a
supermarket chain specializing in organic, vegetarian, and alternative foods
with hundreds of locations throughout the United
States, centered in organic-happy Southern
California. Shoppers appreciate its image of healthful food in a
small-business family atmosphere. Really? In 2005 alone, Trader Joe’s racked up
sales estimated at $4.5 billion. The company is owned by a family trust set up
by German billionaire Theo Albrecht, ranked the 22nd richest man in the world
by Forbes in 2004. He’s the co-founder and CEO of German multi-national ALDI,
with global revenue in grocery sales at $37 billion. According to Business
Week, the decade of the 1990’s saw Trader Joe’s increase its profits by 1000%.… Trader Joe’s customers are willing to pay
their premium prices to get that healthful image. But they should not kid
themselves that they’re striking a blow at big business and supporting the
Ok, so maybe I’m not
helping the little guy. But isn’t it
healthier to eat organic food?
· Some studies have shown traces of pesticide
residues in both food sources, regardless of production method.
· Nutritional value of plants depends on
genetics, availability of water, amount of sunlight, maturity when picked, how
long it took to come to market and whether it was properly handled and
refrigerated. Numerous laboratory tests have not found any substantial
nutritional differences in organically and conventionally grown produce.
· In blind taste tests, consumers generally
cannot differentiate between organically and conventionally grown food.
· Organic produce is marketed as pure and
healthy. Conventionally produced goods are equally safe and nutritious due to
strict regulations and guidelines.
In a recent
article in the Chicago Tribune, raw foods were not found to be as healthy
as initially suspected. The natural
sprouted plant enzymes that are supposed to be really good for you are actually
destroyed by stomach acid and never absorbed in the body. A raw food diet lacks Vitamin B12, which can
cause dangerous deficiencies.
A study by the Center for Global Food Issues found that
although organic foods make up about 1 percent of America’s diet, they also account
for about 8 percent of confirmed E. coli cases.
For a long list of organic food contaminations, check out the Canada Free Press.
What about hormones
given to animals to increase milk production or bulk them up?
In theory, this is the most concerning and potentially
convincing reason to preferentially select organic meats. I could imagine that eating animals pumped
with hormones could have a negative impact on humans – though the research I
found from the WHO and Cornell
University did not support my initial fears. They write:
Studies indicate that
if correct treatment and slaughter procedures are followed, the levels of these
hormones may be slightly higher in the treated animal’s meat or milk, but are
still within the normal range of natural variation known to occur in untreated
FDA scientists have
concluded that eating foods with slightly higher levels of rbGH would not
affect human health. This is because the amount of rbGH that is in milk or milk
products as a result of treatment of the animals is insignificant compared to
the amount of growth hormone that is naturally produced by our bodies. Also,
rbGH is a protein hormone and is digested into smaller fragments (peptides and
amino acids) when eaten. The rbGH hormone used on dairy cattle is effective in
promoting growth in cows, but does not work in humans. Scientists know that
rbGH is not recognized as a hormone by human cells.
Well, isn’t organic
farming better for the environment?
The Canadian Department of Agriculture states that organic
farming methods lead to increased soil erosion, lower crop yields (which
require more acres to produce the same amount of food), and require more
pesticides. Although regular farming
methods use different pesticides than the organic variety, neither types of
pesticides are particularly safe for humans.
Organic pesticides such as
rotenone may be a risk factor for developing Parkinson’s Disease – though
more research is needed to fully elucidate this risk.
So should you go
If you enjoy the flavor or the food quality of certain
produce (and don’t care about price) then purchase it gladly. Make sure you wash it well (organic or not)
and peel the skin if you have any doubts about remaining pesticides. Buy food directly from local farmers when you
can, support free range farming (it’s so much kinder to the animals), and don’t
believe the hype about organic foods automatically being healthier or more
nutritious for you.
Conclusions: organic food is not necessarily more
nutritious, it still may contain harmful pesticides, it is more likely to
contain harmful bacteria, there’s no convincing evidence to suggest that
hormones or antibiotics given to cattle have a negative impact on meat eaters,
and one thing’s for certain: organic food costs at least 20% more than
non-organic.This post originally appeared on Dr. Val’s blog at RevolutionHealth.com.