Study Finds Organic Choices More Limited Than Expected

4/5/2016 3:26 PM

We often talk about why it is concerning that certain groups continually and unfairly disparage the safety of conventionally grown fruits and veggies.  No one disputes that these safe and healthy produce items are the most affordable and accessible for the majority of consumers therefore raising safety fears may be undermining efforts to increase consumption of these foods.  Because if your store only carries a limited amount of organic offerings what is your choice if you are scared to consume conventionally grown produce?

While we know organic choices are less accessible, a new study in the Journal of Food Products Marketing has looked at organic availability by quantifying food sales across Manhattan.  Researchers visited 1,256 stores, assessing whether each retail location sold organic, local or conventional versions of 24 foods that are among the most common to be sold organically.

What they found was that stores selling more than a handful of organic products were overwhelmingly in wealthy neighborhoods.  And, conversely, 60% of stores in the boroughs did not offer a single organic item on the list, and one-third offered 12 items or less. Only 5 percent of the stores offered at least half of the 24 items in organic versions.

"I was surprised at how few stores had a good offering of organic products," says study co-author Carolyn Dimitri, a professor at New York University's Food Studies Program. "I thought organic food was everywhere ... but when you take a look, [organic food] does seem to be concentrated in a few select neighborhoods, rather than the wide availability that was implied by the industry."

Among the foods included in the study:  apples, carrots, bananas, frozen broccoli, frozen peas, frozen mixed veggies, frozen potatoes, frozen strawberries, grapes, lettuce, onions, packaged salads, pears, strawberries, potatoes and tomatoes. 

Many of these fruits and veggies are on the Environmental Working Group’s so-called “dirty dozen” list which recommends buying only organic versions of the produce items on their list.  As we have stated repeatedly, not only is the “dirty dozen” list significantly scientifically flawed, it is also just bad advice.  Once you scare consumers away from popular produce items with terms like “toxic,” and “pesticide laden” and convince them to buy organic only versions, what happens when there is a limited organic section in the store? Do you skip buying apples for your child’s lunch or decide against making a salad for dinner? 

No.  Please don’t. Because the science clearly shows that both organic and conventional fruits and veggies are very safe and can be eaten with confidence.  And, decades of nutritional research shows that consuming a diet rich in fruits and veggies leads to better health and a longer life (most of this research was conducted using conventionally grown produce). 

Therefore the best recommendation for consumers is to eat more of both organic and conventional produce – whatever is affordable and accessible for you and your family is the right choice.  The only “list” you really need is your own shopping list.

Read, learn, choose but eat more organic and conventional fruits and veggies for better health and a longer life.



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