First Time User? Enroll now.
As the COVID-19 situation has evolved, our visitor policy is evolving as well. Get full details.
For the most current information, please visit our Coronavirus resource pages.
Home > Health Library > Organic Foods
Food that is labeled "organic" has been grown or raised without synthetic chemical fertilizers, pest killers (pesticides), weed killers (herbicides), hormones, or drugs. Synthetic means that they are made in a lab.
This means that farmers and ranchers who grow organic food:
Some countries, including the United States, have rules that govern when a farmer or rancher may use the organic label. Before a grower can use that label, a government inspector goes to the farm to make sure that the rules are being followed.
Don't assume that food labeled "natural," "sustainable," "hormone-free," or "free-range" is organic. Look for the USDA organic seal.
You may have these questions about organic food:
Food grown with pesticides can have small amounts of pesticide left on the food when it gets to the store.
If you are concerned about pesticides on your food, here are some steps you can take:footnote 2
Committee on Nutrition, and Council on Environmental Health (2012). Organic foods: Health and environmental advantages and disadvantages. Pediatrics, 130(5): 2012–2579. DOI:10.1542/peds.2012-2579. Accessed June 11, 2015.
Whitney E, Rolfes SR (2013). Consumer concerns about foods and water. Understanding Nutrition, 13th ed., pp. 623–651. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.
Other Works Consulted
Dodd JL (2012). Behavioral-environmental: The individual in the community. In LK Mahan et al., eds., Krause's Food and the Nutrition Care Process, 13th ed., pp. 229–250. St Louis: Saunders.
Environmental Working Group (2015). EWG's 2015 shopper's guide to pesticides in produce. Environmental Working Group. http://www.ewg.org/foodnews/summary.php. Accessed June 11, 2015.
U.S. Department of Agriculture (2008). National Organic Program: Background and history. Available online: http://www.ams.usda.gov/AMSv1.0/getfile?dDocName=STELDEV3004443&acct=nopgeninfo.
Whitney E, Rolfes SR (2011). Consumer concerns about foods and water. In Understanding Nutrition, 12th ed., pp. 647–682. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.
Current as of:
December 17, 2020
Author: Healthwise StaffMedical Review: Kathleen Romito MD - Family MedicineAdam Husney MD - Family MedicineRhonda O'Brien MS, RD, CDE - Certified Diabetes Educator
Current as of: December 17, 2020
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine & Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine & Rhonda O'Brien MS, RD, CDE - Certified Diabetes Educator
To learn more about Healthwise, visit Healthwise.org.
© 1995-2021 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.
Feeling under the weather?
Use our interactive symptom checker to evaluate your symptoms and determine appropriate action or treatment.
Get started learning more about your health!
Our Interactive Tools can help you make smart decisions for a healthier life. You'll find personal calculators and tools for health and fitness, lifestyle checkups, and pregnancy.