Organic foods are produced without the use of added growth hormones, antibiotics or dangerous pesticides, but many consumers do still not know this. Moreover, the jury is still out in some quarters at least as to whether organic food is more nutritious than non-organically produced foods.
"We view the work of the center as integral to our business and mission because research and consumer education are key to the sustained growth of the organic industry," said Gregg Engles, CEO of Dean Foods Company.
The organic industry has experienced impressive growth with sales for 2004 estimated to exceed $12 billion dollars. As organic foods become more popular among consumers, industry leaders are united in their mission to bring greater awareness to the benefits of organic foods.
According to a 2002 study by the Food Marketing Institute (FMI), 61 percent of consumers felt that organic foods were more beneficial for their health, 57 percent of them said that they had purchased organic foods in the past six months or had used them to help maintain their health. This figure was up from 50 percent in 2001.
The survey also found that fans of organic food believe it offers a "richer, deeper taste" than conventionally grown produce. Among Americans, the most frequently purchased organic food types are vegetables, fruit, cereals/grains, closely followed by yoghurt, UHT milk and dried pasta products.
National standards for certifying organic foods became effective in the US on 21 October 2002, establishing a national definition for the term "organic". Items that meet the new requirements are able to bear a green and brown "USDA organic" seal that certifies that the food was organically grown.