Organics: To buy or not to buy

national_organic_labelLast week I met with  the Shanghai Bumps & Babes group, a very gracious and well informed group of Moms and babes.

I have decided to share a summary of our discussion here as I think all of us, not just Moms ,are confused about whether organic food is necessary here  or anywhere.

Whether or not to spend money on organics is a major question for people here in Shanghai, especially due to the uncertainty that the product labeled organic is truly organic.  Organic foods are a new industry in China and like most new things in China the industry is growing faster than the structure to regulate it.  There are regulations regarding organic farming in China and the certification process has been in place for several years now.

Our best advice is to get to know your supplier.  Find out where they get their produce. We also recommend that you take advantage of the offers to visit the farms.  Not only is this a fun day out for the family but you will get a first – hand look at the farm and what surrounds it. Many of the organic farms around Shanghai offer farm tours.

Eat a variety of fruits and veggies from a variety of suppliers.  Include in-season organic produce in your meals. If your produce isn’t organically grown, eating a mix of foods from a variety of sources can minimize your risk of ingesting too much of any one pesticide.

Wash well. Wash and scrub all fresh fruits and vegetables. Soaking is fine to loosen dirt and debris, but studies have shown that running water is the most effective means of physically removing pesticide residues as well as dirt and bacteria. Scrubbing with a soft brush can help remove contaminants in crevices.

Many of you had questions regarding meat and fish and dairy here in Shanghai.  This gets a bit more complicated, especially for the meat because there are not as many alternatives to buy organic meat.

I recommend that you follow the principle of variety.

Choose a variety of meats, both imported and exported.  Look for small butchers that are appearing around town offering Chinese grown meat without anti-biotics and hormones.  Try Korean and Japanese markets and ask about where their beef and other meat products come from.   Reduce the amount meat in your diet.  By this I mean serving smaller portions.

The same idea of variety goes for dairy products. The exception being that I recommend that pregnant, nursing women and children drink UHT milk (boxed). The ultra high pasteurization process kills any harmful bacteria. You can find organic boxed milk in Shanghai. I also recommend introducing soy milk to the family, just for variety.

Fish is another tricky one.  Make sure it is alive, if you are buying a whole fish from the wet market or grocery chain.  As in many countries, the fresh water fish will carry more contaminants, so I recommend eating it less than once a week and using more ocean going fish.

Variety is the key to safe, nutritious eating.

For more detailed information on organic foods and labeling in China , pick up a copy of  the Eat Well Shanghai Guidebook.

Kid Friendly Recipe of the Week:

Invite your kids into the kitchen and let them crush the cereal to make these delicious French Toast Bites with Yogurt Dipping Sauce.

Eat Well, Live Well, Have Fun !