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Living Maxwell

Better Choices

The Mystery Behind Organic Honey

One question has been really bothering me as of late: Is there such a thing as USDA certified organic honey?

Despite the picture you see above, there is good reason for me to have serious doubt.  Here is why.

In the past, I have spoken to numerous local beekeepers and when I asked them if their honey is organic, they have all told me that there is no such thing as USDA certified organic honey.

Yet when I go to the market, I see one or two brands of honey that have the USDA organic seal on the label. Almost all of the honey that has the seal on it comes from Brazil, which has made me wonder whether there is some type of corruption going on with the certification.

Last week, I decided to get to the bottom of this and had a conversation with Garth Kahl, a Latin American specialist at Oregon Tilth, one the country’s largest and most well-known organic certification agencies.

(For those who don’t know, the certfiers are 3rd party agencies approved by the USDA. Their main job is to enforce the USDA’s national organic standards and to tell farmers and food manufacturers whether they are in compliance with these standards. If they are in compliance, these businesses can then use the organic seal.)

In the beginning of our conversation, Garth told me that most honey is certified to EU standards and that a majority of organic honey is coming out of Brazil or Mexico.

He informed me that the two main criteria for organic honey are:

– The few surrounding miles (where the bees can fly) must be certified as organic and not contain any pesticides or chemicals.

– What is used inside the hives must not contain any synthetic chemicals that are prohibited by the EU.

Garth then went on to say that some U.S. certifiers are granting certification to apiaries based on USDA organic rules for livestock. Yes, livestock.

When I caught my breath and told him that all of this was very confusing and didn’t make much sense, he understood completely.

It then begged my next and most obvious question: Are there USDA certified organic standards for honey?

The answer is No. There are no standards for USDA certified organic honey. They do not exist.

If that is the case, how can these companies put the organic seal on their products?

A logical question, right?

Given that there are no national standards for organic honey, the USDA’s National Organic Program has said the following.

Certifiers can certify honey but the USDA would not give any guidance in terms of crtieria to be used. Each certifier must use its own criteria, whether it is based off of the EU standards or not.

So even though there are no USDA certified organic standards for honey, this explains how and why some brands of honey carry the USDA organic seal.

When I heard all of this, I kind of shook my head in disbelief.

However…

Garth went on to tell me a few other things that made all of this a little bit more understandable. Or palatable.

1) The organic industry has grown much faster in the marketplace than the corresponding regulatory body, the USDA National Organic Program, and the rules have just not kept up. MAKES SENSE

It also doesn’t help that funding dedicated to the USDA/NOP has been relatively miniscule over the past several years. AGREED

2) Getting new rules approved by a governmental agency is never an easy thing to do. All interested parties fight brutally hard over exactly what should be considered organic and this debate/haggling can last years. AGREED

3) Determining the rules for organic honey certification was supposed to be on the docket for 2011 but nothing official has been determined or decided so far.

Some people may not want to buy organic honey from Brazil as they believe honey should always come from very close to where they live.

If this is the case and you are buying non-organic, local honey at your farmer’s market, there is one very important question you want to ask: What is being used in hives?

Two things you do not want to hear are Apistan strips and coumaphos. These are toxic chemicals used in conventional honey to kill Varroa Mites in the hive.

The USDA organic program is by no means perfect but it is the only one we have. It is imperative we continue to support organics so that funding continues and improvements to the system are constantly made.

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Living Maxwell

Better Choices

10 Organic Foods You’ll Always Find in My Kitchen

For someone who loves organic food so much and cooks so often, my refrigerator is surprisingly empty. How could this be?

Well, I go food shopping A LOT and pretty much only buy whatever I need for the next meal that I’ll be eating. I have the good fortune of being able to do this because an amazing organic market is literally less a one minute walk from my apartment.

Plus, I LOVE going food shopping and making multiple trips to the market in one day is not exactly a burden. Staring at all of the amazing fruits and vegetables in the produce section is one of my favorite things to do.

Even though I do tend to “buy on-demand”, you’ll pretty much always find these 10 organic foods in my kitchen:

COCONUT OIL I am a huge fan of coconut oil.  Not only is it high in lauric acid and great to use after a workout but it is one of the few oils that you can safely heat and cook with. (Olive oil is not one of them.)

Aside from using organic coconut oil in my smoothies, I use it as a moisturizer as well.

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Why Tradin Organic is Prioritizing Regenerative Organic Farming

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Living Maxwell

Better Choices

New Study on Milk: More Evidence That Organic Offers Superior Nutrition

When most people think of the reason to drink organic milk, the first thing that pops into their mind is the desire to avoid hormonal milk – milk that has been produced from cows who have been injected with synthetic growth hormones.

Yet, a recently released study gives us an additional reason as to why we should drink organic milk.

In research published in PLOS One, the scientists of the study reported that organic milk contained 62% more omega-3 fatty acids and 25% fewer omega-6s.

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Living Maxwell

Better Choices

Your Children Have Pesticides in their Bodies – Remove these Chemicals with an Organic Diet

It is a proven fact that our children are born with a shocking number of harmful chemicals in their bodies.

A study from the Environmental Working Group showed that 232 toxic chemicals were found in 10 cord blood samples of infants.

Some of the chemicals included BPA (a hormone disruptor), toxic flame retardants, synthetic fragrances used in common cosmetics and detergents, and PFBA, which is used to make non-stick and grease-, stain- and water-resistant coatings for cookware, textiles, food packaging and other consumer products.

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livingmaxwell: a guide to organic food & drink