Organic Consumer

Understanding ‘ORGANIC’ food as a consumer



Author: Cheenu Prashar Vig, Senior Clinical Nutritionist at Max Healthcare

Only a few decades ago, organic foods were found solely in health food stores or at farmers’ market. Today, the organic food industry’s annual growth is outpacing the growth of total food sales and gaining its share of the market.

What is organic food?

Organic foods are grown or processed without chemicals such as pesticides, fertilizers, or herbicides, artificial ingredients or preservatives, growth hormones, and antibiotics. Organic food is not irradiated by law and if it is labeled “100% organic” it also doesn’t contain genetically engineered ingredients. In simple terms, if a food is not grown or prepared in its natural ways with natural ingredients, it would not be Organic Food.

Some studies have indicated that the use of certain chemical pesticides even at low doses can increase the risk of certain cancers such as leukemia, brain tumors, breast cancer and prostate cancer. Children are most vulnerable because their immune systems, bodies and brains are still developing. Exposure at an early age may cause developmental delays, behavioral disorders, autism. In pregnant women pesticides can be passed from mother to child in the womb.

Rinsing fresh produce does not eliminate pesticides but rinsing it in warm water for at least one minute or longer can help reduce pesticide presence on it, as most of these are water soluble. Soaking the produce in warm water is one of the easiest and most effective ways to remove pesticide residues.

The National Institute of Nutrition (NIN) released the Dietary Guidelines for India recently. These methods should be easily adopted at the house hold level to remove the pesticide residues.

Most of the pesticide residues can be removed by adopting four methods. These methods are Washing, Blanching, Peeling and Cooking.


• The first step in the removal of pesticide residues from the food products is washing. Washing with 2% of salt water will remove most of the contact pesticide residues that normally appear on the surface of the vegetables and fruits.

• About 75-80% of pesticide residues are removed by cold water washing. The pesticide residues that are on the surface of the grapes, apples, guava, plums, mangoes, peaches, pears etc, vegetables like tomatoes, brinjal, okra require 2-3 washings.

• The green leafy vegetables must be washed with 2% salt water. The pesticide residues from green leafy vegetables is removed satisfactorily by normal processing such as washing, blanching and cooking.


Blanching is a short treatment in hot water or steam applied to most of the vegetables. Certain pesticide residues can effectively be removed by blanching. But before blanching it is very important to thoroughly pre-wash the vegetables and fruits.


• Contact pesticides that appear on the surface of the fruits and vegetables can be removed also by peeling.

• Steps such as concentration, dehydration, and extraction from the raw product can further reduce pesticide residues in the end produce. Mostly, processing almost always results in minimal residues in processed food.


Animal Products

• Animal products are also the major source of contamination from pesticide residues in human diets since the animals feeds or fodder, are usually sprayed with pesticides.
• Pressure cooking, frying and baking will minimize the harmful effect of the pesticide residues.

Dairy products

Boiling of milk at high temperatures may neutralise much of the harmful effects.

Vegetable Oils

• Refined oils will have fewer amounts of pesticide residues.
• Household heating of oils will minimize pesticide residues

The best approach is to eat a varied diet, wash and scrub all produce thoroughly.

However, it might be best to buy organic foods when possible.

Sometimes you might see the word “natural” on foods that you buy in the grocery stores. This term natural can be pretty misleading. Because it’s not very specific and there aren’t many regulations around what can be called natural.

While such natural foods might be better than those which do not claim to be natural, it does not ensure the food to be fully organic.

Which logo shall a consumer look on the label of organic food in India

The consumer shall look for Food Safety and Standard Authority of India’s organic logo (Jaivik Bharat) and FSSAI Logo License number.

In addition, the label may carry India Organic Logo (NPOP certified) or PGS-India Organic Logo (PGS-India certified) under whichever system it is certified.

India Organic is a certification mark for organically farmed food products manufactured in India. The certification mark certifies that an organic food product conforms to the National Standards for Organic Products established in 2000. The certification is issued by testing centres accredited by the Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA) under the National Program for Organic production of the Government of India.

Just like green and red dots on products to signify if they are vegetarian or non-vegetarian, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) in December 2017, introduced the Jaivik Bharat logo to help customers identify authentic organic food.

Organic foods are clearly healthier for the planet because they promote a more biodiverse ecosystem, with attention to the health of not only the consumers but even the waterways, soil, air, wildlife, farm workers, and the climate.

Reviews of multiple studies show that organic varieties do provide significantly greater levels of vitamin C, iron, magnesium and phosphorus than non-organic varieties of same foods, besides being significantly lower in nitrates and pesticide residues.

Organic farming is not a new process in India. It is an agricultural method that aims to grow crops keeping the soil alive.

The principal methods of organic farming include intelligent crop rotation, green manures and compost, biological pest controls.

Whenever possible buy organic or possibly natural products. If you can do, plant a small kitchen garden, even better. By getting closer to the source of our food and by paying a bit more attention to where our food comes from and how its prepared, we can start to have a more significant and sustainable positive impact on our health. There may be a greater benefit with this for our future generations as well….


7 - 9 September 2023

India Expo Mart (IEML), Greater Noida, Delhi-NCR