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
 

04.Groceries

Teabags

Typical price for 50 bag Tea bags with container
Organic brands: $2.40 to $4.80
Leading brand: $2.8

CHOICE tested teas for pesticides in 2003, and all the varieties that claimed to be organic got the all-clear. However, we found traces of pesticides in nearly 40% of the tea samples, of which a few were much higher than the maximum residue limit (and residues of 17 pesticides not registered for use in foods in Australia).

Green and herbal teas had greater numbers and levels of pesticides in general than black teas.

Chocolate

Typical price for 100 g block (high in cocoa solids) Broken block of chocolate
Organic brands: $4 to $6
Leading brand: $3.30

The number and type of additives are restricted in organic chocolate, and typically it’s high in cocoa solids (at least 70% for dark chocolate). However, the ingredients are very similar to other upmarket high-cocoa-solids chocolate.

Some cheap choc bars contain unhealthy trans fats, which aren’t permitted in organic foods. And there’s more to chocolate than conventional versus organic issues. As a letter to CHOICE (May 2007) pointed out, child slave labour has been central to the chocolate trade and it’s worth looking for brands that don’t use it.

Cereals

Typical price for 750 g wheat biscuits Wheat biscuits in a bowl
Organic: $4.20 to $4.60
Leading brand: $3.90 to $4.00

Not all organic cereals are more expensive than standard. For breakfast wheat biscuits, there’s little or no price difference.

Organic cornflakes and muesli usually had greater differences. You can expect organic cereals to have no artificial additives and to be made from organically grown grains and other ingredients.

Honey

Typical price for 500 g Honey pot
Organic: $4.60 to $7.40
Leading brand: $5.30 to $5.50

Bees fly — it seems obvious, but as a result organic beehives must be at least five kilometres from conventional crops/orchards and pollution sources such as livestock dips, urban areas, garbage dumps, contaminated water, industrial sites, golf courses and genetically modified crops.

There are other requirements for honey to be labelled 'organic', relating to factors like bee welfare and the materials that hives can be made from.

Biscuits

We didn’t find any organic biscuits in supermarkets, but some brands are available in healthfood stores. Duchy original biscuits

A well-known one is Duchy Originals, imported from the UK. But at around $10 to $12 for a 250 g packet, they’re definitely a special-occasion purchase.

Apart from the usual organic farming benefits, the main benefit of organic biscuits is no artificial additives or hydrogenated fat, which often contains trans fat that’s bad for your heart.


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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