Organic food buying guide

Choosing organic food is easier than ever. But is it worth the extra money?
 
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  • Updated:17 Jul 2007
 

03.Fruit and veg

Apples

Typical price for 1 kg Apples
Organic: $5 to $8
Standard: $2 to $5

Organic apples are anywhere between one-and-a-half and three times more expensive than standard apples.

If you’re keen to reduce your exposure to synthetic chemicals, organic apples could be worth considering. Taste-wise, there’s some (limited) evidence suggesting organic apples have an edge.

The (very limited) Australian testing for pesticides and herbicides has found residues on apples although, as on other fruit, almost always at less than the allowable limits. One WA study found at least one low-level residue on around half the apples sampled. The 2003 Australian Total Diet Survey (ATDS), which looked at residues, also suggests around half of the conventional apples had one residue or more.

Strawberries

Organic strawberries weren’t in season when we did our price survey (May 2007). As we went to press they were starting to become available from Queensland. We found them online and in speciality shops for $9 to $10. At the same time conventional strawberries were around $4.50 per punnet. Pile of strawberries

The 2003 Australian Total Diet Survey found the fruit with the highest residue levels was strawberries. The survey found at least one residue on two thirds of strawberry samples. Some studies suggest organic strawberries may have more antioxidants and one study found them to be redder and sweeter, so you could give them a try — if you can find them at a reasonable price.

Carrots

Typical price for 1 kg Bunch baby carrots
Organic: $4.30 to $5.00
Standard: $1.20 to $2

Organic carrots are quite a bit more expensive than standard ones — over twice as much.

But when it comes to synthetic chemicals, regular carrots seem to have few pesticide residues. The the 2003 Australian Total Diet Survey found residues in only one of 21 samples, and this was backed up in the most recent Victorian survey (nine out of 10 samples were residue-free). However, a WA survey found only 50% of conventional samples were residue-free.

Tomatoes

Typical price for 250 g cherry tomatoes Bowl of cherry tomatoes
Organic: $4 to $6
Standard: $3 to $4

Perhaps surprisingly, organic cherry tomatoes don’t always cost more than standard ones.

As for residue concerns, the 2003 ATDS found at least one in five samples had at least one residue. Some studies suggest organic tomatoes are more concentrated (which could improve the flavour) and have more of some beneficial phytochemicals and vitamins.

Potatoes

Typical price for 2 kg Bowl of unwashed potatoes
Organic: $6 to $8
Standard: $3.90 to $5

Recent Australian residue surveys have found almost no pesticide residues in conventional potatoes, so paying extra for organic may not be worthwhile in this respect.

Some preliminary studies suggest organic potatoes have higher levels of some vitamins and minerals. And in one recent study, people could taste the difference as long as the potatoes weren’t peeled. However, they tasted somewhat more bitter and earthy — it’s not known which was preferred.

All our prices were collected in 20 Sydney supermarkets in May 2007. They may change depending on the season.


Images: Paul Santelmann

 

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