World Food Safety Day 2020: Are Organic Foods Really Healthier?

World Food Safety Day 2020: Are Organic Foods Really Healthier?
Studies have shown that organic foods have significantly higher levels of antioxidants like polyphenols than their conventionally grown counterpart. © Shutterstock

How your food is grown or raised can have a major impact on your health and the environment. On the occasion of World Food Safety Day, we give you some good reasons why you should go organic.

Written by Longjam Dineshwori |Published : June 7, 2020 12:46 PM IST

Are you a fan of organic produce? While some say adopting an organic diet is good for both the environment as well as personal health, some argue that the benefits of eating organic are overrated. Today is the World Food Safety Day, and it seems to be the right time to discuss on this widely debated topic.

The World Health Organization is celebrating the second World Food Safety Day today (June 7) to draw attention and inspire action to help prevent, detect and manage foodborne diseases. The World Food Safety Day was first celebrated in 2019 to strengthen commitment to scale up food safety made by the Addis Ababa Conference and the Geneva Forum in the same year under the umbrella of "The Future of Food Safety".

WHO, in collaboration with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), is encouraging member States to celebrate the World Food Safety Day 2020. The theme of this year celebration is "Food safety, everyone's business". The WHO describes it as an action-oriented campaign to promote global food safety awareness. It urges countries and decision makers, the private sector, civil society, UN organizations and the general public to take action to reduce the burden of foodborne diseases.

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Organic foods or naturally grown foods have gained a lot of popularity in recent years. But does going organic ensure food safety? Is organic food healthier than the conventional ones? Is it worth the expense? We have made an effort to provide answers to these burning questions on this World Food Safety Day. Read on

What does organic really mean?

Organic foods are foods that come from farms and processing facilities that follow strict criteria. The regulations for growing and processing agricultural products vary from country to country. But in general, organic crops must be grown without the use of synthetic pesticides (like chemical herbicides and insecticides), chemical fertilizers, and genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Organic livestock for meat, eggs, and dairy products must be raised with proper access to the outdoors and be given organic feed. Organic farmers should also avoid use of antibiotics, growth hormones, or any animal by-products.

Organic foods vs conventional foods

Conventional foods are often grown using pesticides and chemical fertilizers which are dangerous for health. These chemicals are linked to serious health issues like cancers, brain tumours, leukaemia, immune disorders, infertility, cardiac disease, hypertension, Alzheimer's and numerous other diseases. Not only eating organic foods may reduce exposure to such harmful chemicals, you will get more nutritional benefits. Studies have shown that organic foods have significantly higher levels of antioxidants like polyphenols than their conventionally grown counterparts. A 2016 European study levels of certain nutrients, including omega-3 fatty acids, were up to 50 percent higher in organic meat and milk than in conventionally raised versions.

A French study came up with even more compelling results, suggesting that eating organic food more often may help reduce risk of cancer. As it doesn't contain preservatives, organic food stays fresh for longer.

Organic farming supports environment

Organic farming can help reduce pollution, conserve water, reduce soil erosion, as well as increase soil fertility. It may also help in reducing carbon dioxide, slowing down climate change and the effects of global warming. Farming without pesticides is also better for birds, animals and people who live close to farms.

Tips for choosing organic food

Organic food often comes with heavy price tags. If you can't always go for organic foods because of budget constraints, try to figure out where to compromise on produce. For example, you can completely avoid buying conventionally grown foods that have high levels of pesticides but continue buying those that are generally low in pesticides. Some conventionally grown fruits and vegetables are generally low in pesticides and are relatively safe. So, you don't need to replace them with expensive organic versions. So, knowing the produce pesticide levels can help guide your choices.