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Thursday, July 23, 2009

Natural = Pesticides

One of the many things in my blog-roll's daily reader is the Greenwash Brigade column in the American Public Media's Marketplace website. Usually focused on clearing the air on companies who greenwash - or say they are green but don't back it up, they highlighted something of particular importance to the health of my baby: The term 'Natural' when it comes to food is essentially meaningless to the USDA and FDA. There are no real restrictions on what a product that claims that it is 'natural' really is.

The feds (aka the USDA and FDA) have respectfully declined to define “natural” except for a very narrow class of products. And so Dean Foods will fill that void with their own: natural Dean products will be those “produced without added hormones, artificial sweeteners, artificial colors, flavors, preservatives or high fructose corn syrup.” Well, that’s reassuring.
Dean’s new “natural” yogurts and milk can — and will — come from dairy cows that have eaten pesticide laden feed such as corn and soy, antibiotics, pig and chicken byproducts, and sewage sludge. The only bad boy from the list of conventional animal feed that Dean has prohibited is hormones. So what’s a little sewage sludge and pesticide residue going to do to your kid anyhow?
So, all of you shoppers - be aware that Organic is highly regulated and very specific... truly a 'natural' product. But somthing labled just 'natural' can and is likly *not* what you think it should be.

From a comment another gem sprang out:
Dean Foods had quietly switched their "Silk" soy milk from "organic" to "natural", substituting conventional soy beans for what had previously been organic soy beans,... with no fanfare and no decrease in price. "Don't mind the pesticides bait-and-switch, folks, just look at the pretty wind turbine."


Marcy said...

I waffle back and forth often about how much effort (and money) I want to put into avoiding exposure to these chemicals, especially for Donovan. Does it really make that big a difference if I use sunscreen/lotion/body wash without parabens in it? Do I dare even find out whether the people our landlord hires to do our yard use pesticides (though I'm pretty sure they do) and do I want to try to fight against it? It goes on and on. But I do try to be smart about the food we buy, and feel very lucky that we have such easy access to organic foods via farmers markets and stores like Trader Joe's.

Anjea said...

I know with meats (from working in the CM meat market), "organic" refers to animals that have been fed organic grains/grass, and "natural" refers to the animal not receiving hormones, steroids, or antibiotics - but the food they eat may contain those things. Likewise, "Free-range" isn't that great - while it's nice to think of chickens roaming around free, they're also free to eat whatever they want, which includes other chickens' poop, insects, and who knows what else.

Marcy said...

From what I've heard, cooped up chickens end up doing more than just eating other chickens' poop since there's not much room to get away from it... ;)

But I have heard warnings that labels like "free range" and "grass fed" can be misleading in that the standards are kinda low-- the animal only needs to be let out once a day for a short time, or the cow fed grass only for the 6 months prior to slaughter.