Not About Food 74

"Preserving the Organic Integrity of Food" - Tell me why I shouldn't snicker.

marcia2 | May 30, 2008 10:54 AM

I've been noticing signs in my local Whole Foods telling people how they can "preserve the organic integrity" of their food. It's basically advice on how to make sure that your organic food doesn't come in contact with conventional foods. For instance, it advises that you slice bread and grind coffee beans at home, since the store's slicers and grinders are also used for conventional food. It asks people to be careful about what scoopers, etc they use so as to get things mixed up.

I don't keep kosher, but I know enough about it to know that kosher food can be made treyf (non-kosher) by mere contact with treyf food or, for that matter, mere contact with something that has come in contact with treyf food. But kosher is a ritual status. The piece of formerly kosher bread that sat on a clean plate that once held a piece of bacon is not physically distinguishable from the piece of kosher bread that has never touched treyf. But no one is claiming that it is. The difference is spiritual/religious/ritual and I understand the concerns about contact.

But last time I looked, food was organic when it was grown, raised and or processed according to certain rules, using certain methods and ingredients and avoiding others. Are there seriously people who believe that the organic-ness (so to speak) of their food is compromised or ruined by the slightest contact with conventional foods? Do they believe that being organic is somehow a spiritual state that can sullied by the slightest contact with conventional foods? Do they believe that slicing their organic bread on a slicer used for conventional bread magically disorganics their bread? Changes the way its ingredients were grown? Ruins the special organic healthfulness of the bread?

Now, I buy a lot of organic products. Some I prefer because I think they're better for my family's health, others I choose because I think it's a more responsible environmental choice. But it never really occurred to me to worry about my organic coffee beans coming into contact with a few grains of conventional coffee in the grinder or whether the scoop I use to get my organic flour once touched the conventional stuff. Who cares?

Maybe I'm missing something. Here's your opportunity to persuade me that this isn't just some silly greener-than-thou nonsense.

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