Organic foods crop up on campus

Shortly after spring break 2006, organic foods were introduced in the 49er Shops around campus, offering students new meal and snack choices.

Sites that offering the new foods include the Outpost, the University Bookstore, the Beach Hut and the food plaza on upper campus, according to Patti Gray, the director of Dining Services for the 49er Shops.

“The program is still in test mode, but it has been well received by people on campus,” Gray said. “155 units [of organic food] are sold each day on campus.” According to Gray, the Board of Directors for the 49er shops will decide this summer whether or not to continue with the program.

The organic food offered around campus is distributed by Organics To Go, a company that, according to its Web site, specializes in home delivery of organic food. Douglas Robinson, the director of the Board of 49er shops, says the school can assure the organic quality of the food being sold by Organics To Go because “the distributor deals exclusively with organic products.”

According to the Web site for the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) food is deemed “organic” when the “agricultural products have been grown and processed according to USDA’s standards and certified by USDA-accredited state and private certification organizations.”

“The difference between organic fruits and vegetables and non-organic [fruits and vegetables] is that the organic foods do not use chemicals” or certain kinds of pesticides, said Sydne Newberry, a nutrition and communication analyst from the non-profit think tank, the RAND Corp.

According to Newberry, natural pesticides that are allowed on organic foods, like orange peel, can be as dangerous as chemical pesticides because the human body is not used to high concentrations of these natural substances. “It’s not the substances themselves but the concentration,” said Newberry.

Fruits and vegetables with thin skins, like peaches and apples, are more prone to absorbing outside substances and are best to buy organic, said Newberry. She said many people feel safe eating organic foods and do not wash their food because they think organic means no pesticides were used in growing the food, and they consequently get sick.

Meats and cheeses have different, more complicated standards for being considered organic, including whether or not the meat was given hormones or antibiotics.

According to the USDA Web site, organic certification was started in the early ’70s by private, mostly non-profit, organizations as a way to end consumer fraud. Later in the ’80s some states began offering certification for similar reasons.

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