There is a trend in the modern food market where unprocessed food products are labeled as “organic” because they were grown without the use of pesticides, genetic modifications, or other factors. Such items usually have higher prices and lesser availability than their counterparts that do not claim the distinction. The primary attraction of organic food is its supposed health benefit that is said to result from the avoidance of methods that could have unforeseen side effects. This essay investigates the subject and attempts to determine whether the claims can be verified.
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Consumer Perceptions of Organic Foods
Organic food is primarily intended to appeal to financially well-off people who can afford to spend more money on food in exchange for its perceived superior quality. According to Dolezalová et al., the only attributes that consumers tend to consider significantly different are the taste and naturalness of the food (89). It should be noted that the research reports no noticeable effort by the customers to seek out organic food if it is not immediately available.
It is possible that the popularity of organic food may not be related to its benefits. Lindeman and Anttila state their research induces them “to view the high regard of organic food as a meme; not in genetic terms, but as a cultural artefact (Heath, Bell, & Sternberg, 2001) that spreads from person to person, that affects social cognition, and that propagates in the social environment as a true statement to be believed” (76). People believe that organic food is highly beneficial and spread that belief to others, who are convinced by the superficially correct logic and willingness of the first person to accept the claim.
Differences in Production Methods
As was mentioned above, organic food’s distinguishing features are the avoidance of chemicals and genetic treatments. This practice leads to concerns about the safety of the product, as the methods prohibit the use of the most effective sanitization treatments. According to Marques et al., the most common organic food sanitization methods, such as organic acids, may negatively impact the quality of the food and contaminate the wastewater, while other techniques, such as the use of ozone, chlorine, or peroxyacetic acid, were not permitted (3044-3045). As such, organic foods may be less safe than those that were produced conventionally.
Health Benefits of Organic Foods
A significant amount of research has been conducted on the effects of organic foods on consumers’ health. The central claims are the reduced exposure to pesticides, lower risk of contracting certain diseases that are sometimes associated with genetically modified foods, and a general increase in quality. This section reviews research into those claims as well as the overall health benefits of organic food consumption.
The statements regarding lesser pesticide exposure and nutritional food quality may be substantial. Rock et al. report that research confirms the pesticide claim and increased nutritional benefits of organic food compared to conventional alternatives (2). Furthermore, Rock et al. describe a significant number of studies that display increased quality and health benefits of organic food but note that they also show the possibility of arsenic contamination in crops (4). Overall, however, the nutritional benefits of natural foods appear to be considerable and noteworthy.
The claims that organic foods can prevent certain diseases are less trustworthy. According to Rock et al., studies show that natural food consumption does not affect the likelihood of a person contracting cancer (2). However, Rock et al. mention risks that the product would be contaminated with dangerous bacteria, such as E. coli and L. monocytogenes (3). The authors conclude that the knowledge gained so far is not convincing enough to recommend organic foods to the community.
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However, natural foods appear to have a positive effect on health that is not related to their safety or nutritional value. According to Eisinger-Watzl et al., consumers who regularly consume organic foods tend to have a more balanced diet and live a healthier general lifestyle (67). It is difficult to determine whether their natural food consumption habits lead them to consider their health and other factors that may impact it or organic food is only a factor in their positive habits.
Organic foods are more expensive than conventional variants but do not appear to offer significant benefits. There is a possibility that they are a social phenomenon, as opposed to being a result of the population’s health concerns. Nevertheless, organic foods do not appear to be harmful and may promote healthy behaviors. From a medical standpoint, natural foods do not seem to have a notable effect on a patient’s health.
Dolezalová, Hana, et al. “Perception of Quality in Decision Making regarding Purchase of Organic Food.” Calitatea, vol. 17, no. 153, 2016, pp. 86-91.
Eisinger-Watzl, Marianne, et al. “Customers Purchasing Organic Food – Do They Live Healthier? Results of the German National Nutrition Survey II.” European Journal of Food Research & Review, vol. 5, no. 1, 2015, pp. 59-71.
Lindeman, Marjaana, and Anttila, Joonas. “Organic food appeals to intuition and triggers stereotypes,” International Journal of Psychological Studies, vol. 10, no. 3, 2018, pp. 66-79.
Marques, Háquila Mirelly Franco Vieira Reis, et al. “Fresh-Cut Produce: Comparison between Sanitation and Production Methods: Organic Versus Conventional.” International Journal of Current Microbiology and Applied Sciences, vol.7, no. 4, 2018, pp. 3038-3048.
Rock, B., et al. “Organic Food and Health: A Systematic Review.” Journal of Community Medicine & Health Education, vol. 7, no. 3, 2017. Web.