How to buy organic produce


Looking for organic produce, but not sure you've got the real thing? Anna Lappe, organic food expert, shares tips on how to buy organic produce and tells why we should be buying organic when we can.

How to buy organic produce

First, let's explain what organic produce is:

Produce that is grown organically has not been produced with sewage sludge, it hasn't been irradiated, it doesn't include genetically modified foods, or most man-made chemicals.

How can you tell whether a piece of produce is organic?

If you're in a store that has an organic section, obviously head for it. But if there isn't an organic section, you have to do a little bit of extra work.

  • The first thing you should do is look for the USDA certified organic label. If they don't have that, look for the PLU number on most fruits and vegetables. You'll find this on a small label that's been stuck to the fruit.
  • If the PLU number is four digits long, it's not organic.
  • If it's 5 digits long and begins with the number 9, it is organic.
  • You can also look at the fruit. Unfortunately, nonorganic fruit tends to be shinier and more perfect looking than organic.

Why buy organic produce?

It's healthier for your body. It's healthier for the environment, since it doesn't require pesticides. It's healthier for the farm workers who handle the crops.

Babies and small children are especially vulnerable to residues of toxic pesticides and other chemicals.


Hi I'm Anna Lappe, the co-author of Grub: Ideas for an Urban Organic Kitchen. I'm here in Whole Foods to talk about organics.Now it seems like everywhere you turn you see the word organic. But what does it really mean and how to really know you're getting organics when you're looking for them?

So, what does organic mean?  It means most simply that your food has not been grown with sewage sludge, it hasn't been irradiated, it doesn't include genetically modified foods, and it hasn't been made with most man-made chemicals. 

So how do you know it's really organic? Well thankfully a lot of supermarkets will have an organic section. But what if they don't? The first thing you can look for is the USDA organic seal. But if they don't have that, there's another little trick. And that's to look for the PLU number that you'll find on most pieces of fruits or vegetables. If it's four digits long, then you know you've found a piece of non-organic produce.  If it's five digits long and begins with the number nine, then you know you've found an organic piece of produce. 

So here we have an organic apple and a non-organic apple. And the final little trick is that you might notice is that a lot of the non-organic produce might look at lot prettier--see how shiny this apple is? Well that's because a lot of pesticides are used just to make produce look better. 

Here's why I choose organic food: it's better for my health. I know everytime I choose organic food I don't have to be worried about what I'm putting into my body. I choose organic also because it's better for the environment. We're not spreading toxic pesticides in order to bring us the food that we eat. Organic is also better for the farmers and the farm workers who don't have to worry about working with toxic pesticides in the fields. Choosing organic food is also especially important for babies and for kids whose small bodies are that much more vulnerable to toxic residues in the food that they eat. 

meet theexpert
  • Anna Lappe

    Anna Lappe Co-founder, Small Planet Institute Anna Lappé is a national bestselling author and public speaker, known for her work on sustainable agriculture, food politics and social change. Named one of Time Magazine’s Eco-Who’s Who, Anna has been featured in The New York Times, Gourmet, O-The Oprah Magazine, Domino, Food & Wine, and Vibe, among many other outlets. She is the co-author of Grub: Ideas for an Urban Organic Kitchen and Hope’s Edge: The Next Diet for a Small Planet. With her mother, Anna co-founded the Small Planet Insti more about this expert »

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