Organic foods, what they are and how to recognize them

Organic food they have at least 95% of the ingredients that compose it produced according to the "organic method". Let's find out better.

> 1. What are organic foods

> 2. How to recognize an organic farming product

> 3. The nutritional values ​​of organic products

> 4. What are the differences with the traditional method?

Organic foods, what they are and how to recognize them

What are organic foods

A food can be labeled and advertised as an “organically obtained product” when at least 95% of the ingredients that compose it were produced according to the "organic method" based on the adoption of cultivation and breeding techniques with reduced environmental impact and then subjected to the inspections provided for by European control system throughout the production chain: from seeds to packaging, to the sale of the product in bulk.

Processing, storage and conditioning plants, for example, must be capable of ensure that organic farming products are processed separately from conventional ones and to allow clear identification and traceability of raw materials and finished products.

Organic farming it is therefore an agricultural production system that favors the health of man and the environment, respecting the entire ecosystem, thus also representing a model of sustainable development and thus achieving two objectives:

  • a benefit for the community (health, environment);
  • saving non-renewable resources by also recycling plant and animal waste, to improve and maintain soil fertility.

All this because it uses the same varieties of traditional agriculture, but is distinguished by the prohibition of synthetic chemical interventions (especially a series of pesticides and plant protection products) and because it provides for the use of GMO plants up to a threshold of 0,9, 2007% (EU decision of June XNUMX), as for traditional agriculture.

With respect to the latter, t is usedextensive agricultural techniques, organic fertilizers or green manure and in particular, for the defense of crops, they are used preventive techniques (rotation, intercropping, selection of resistant varieties, hedges as physical barriers to external pollutants) or natural substances allowed (plant extracts, insects that prey on parasites, minerals to correct the soil).

The use of hormones, antibiotics, other substances that stimulate growth or milk production, while the free grazing, extensive breeding, attention to animal welfare (healthy environments and shelters, short and easy transports, avoided the use of sedatives, slaughter by limiting tension, etc.), balanced diet with food from organic agriculture, preference of native breeds, etc.


How to recognize an organic agriculture product?

In the labels printed after 1 July 2010 is reproduced on new "logo of organic production of the European Union", which must have the characteristics referred to in regulation (EU) 271/2010.
The label must show, in addition to the minimum legal requirements provided for all foods, specific indications:

  1.  "Product obtained with organic production method" or "Product from organic farming" or "... in conversion to organic farming" (only for vegetable products);
  2. controlled by (name of the control body expressly authorized by the Ministry of Agricultural, Food and Forestry Policies) and details of the Aut. Min. (N. ______________ of __ / __ / ____);
  3. batch identification code (16 characters: IT - initials of the state in which certification takes place _ _ _ - initials of the control body _ _ _ _ - initials of the organic operator F / T - fresh or processed product _ _ _ _ _ _ - identification number of the label);
  4. Community logo for the labeling of products obtained from organic farming (which, however, is optional).


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The nutritional values ​​of organic products

Many uncertainties still remain today regarding the quality of products from organic farming. The results of the studies in the literature conducted on this topic are often conflicting: in the face of experiences that indicate that the organic farming method does not imply an improvement in the nutritional value of agricultural products, others have highlighted their higher content in dry matter ( less water), a greater presence of some vitamins (such as C and sometimes E), mineral salts and in particular antioxidants.

In summary it could be said that the higher quality of organic products it is not related to the macronutrient content but it is due to the lower presence of chemical contaminants and al higher content of some micronutrients and antioxidants (especially carotenoids and flavonoids).

The National Research Institute for Food and Nutrition (INRAN) has found nutritional superiority for example in organic peaches, apples and kiwis which have a greater consistency and contain a greater amount of nutrients and antioxidants such as natural sugars, Vitamin C, beta-carotene and polyphenols. Furthermore, the tomatoes studied indicate that the quality of the soil is a key factor but not the only one: for example, the pulp of organic fruits contains less water and therefore has a higher concentration of nutrients.

Certainly if we also consider that the absence of pesticides in organic fruit and vegetables it allows us to be able to use the peel with complete safety and that it is in the peel of vegetables that the greatest amount of vitamins and bioactive compounds are concentrated, this may make us think.

Another nutritional feature is that in processed products, obtained from organic farming, they are only allowed additives, excipients and adjuvants from organic farming or, if technological, only those deemed harmless by the EU commission (for example citric acid, ascorbic acid, sulfur dioxide), indicated in specific lists.

Among the aromas, only the use of natural flavoring substances is allowed, while the use of synthetic dyes and any ingredient obtained or derived from GMOs is prohibited.


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What are the differences with the traditional method?

The four differences with the traditional production method can be summarized in the non-use of:

  • chemical fertilizers which in the long run deplete the plants of substances such as proteins and trace elements (nitrogen fertilizers), magnesium and mineral salts (potassium fertilizers), vitamins (phosphate fertilizers);
  • pesticides / pesticides who are accused of lowering the body's defenses, causing allergies and damaging the transmission of nerve impulses;
  • preservatives and dyes who are suspected of causing cancer (nitrites, nitrates, benzoates), being irritating (sulfur dioxide), causing allergies, restlessness, learning difficulties and elevating cholesterol in adolescents;
  • genetic manipulation whose risks are carcinogenesis, ecosystem alteration and other unpredictable effects.

However, if on the one hand we have a low productivity, sensitivity to parasites, an increase in the presence of mycotoxins in food products obtained with organic methods compared to traditional ones, on the other hand the food product obtained with this method guarantees a lower use of phytosanitary products and therefore a lower presence of residues in food leading to community wellbeing and animal welfare.


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