Nowadays, the majority of the conversation around organic versus conventional foods tends to be centered around meats and produce. But nearly every time we cook, go to a restaurant or use meal delivery there are key ingredients utilized to enhance the flavors of our foods – yes, I’m referring to herbs and spices. When we were developing the quality standards for our healthy meal delivery service back in 2012, it quickly became apparent that utilizing only organic herbs and spices was the only way to go. So here’s what you should know about conventional versus organic herbs and spices.
1) Let’s not forget that herbs and spices are derived from plants and are exposed to pests, bacteria and other contaminants as they’re grown. To combat these issues, conventional farming practices incorporate wide-spread pesticide use. So it’s the same story and the same issues we’ve been hearing about regarding the produce we consume. Purchasing organic herbs & spices is the only way to insure that what you’re consuming hasn’t been tainted with pesticides, chemicals or genetic modification.
2) But it doesn’t stop there. The manufacturing process for conventional herbs and spices includes more controversial and potentially harmful practices. One is a sterilization process that utilizes the toxic chemical ethylene oxide- a chemical that’s been associated with central nervous system effects and cancer in workers that have extensive exposure to it. Another practice called irradiation is actually something that’s very common in the food industry in general. Irradiation utilizes ionizing radiation to eliminate potential contaminants in herb, spices and other foods potentially creating carcinogenic by-products in the process. Ethylene oxide and irradiation can both be avoided by purchasing organic herbs and spices. Organic spice companies utilize a variety of other methods to eliminate bacteria- steaming, freezing and sun-drying are some of the most prevalent.
3) On a recent search for adobo spice, we came across a conventionally-produced brand containing MSG (monosodium glutamate) – a common flavor enhancer that according to our friend Dr. Mercola is “the silent killer lurking in your kitchen cabinets”. This substance is on The Foodery’s and Whole Foods’ banned ingredients lists. The point is that conventional herbs and spices contain all kinds of fillers, preservatives and artificial flavors utilized to lower manufacturing cost and enhance flavor which may be lost in the manufacturing process. You won’t have these issues with organic herbs and spices.
4) Lastly, organic herbs and spices are easy to find. Yes, they absolutely cost more, but not having the pesticide, chemical and irradiation exposure makes them completely worth it. Most groceries stores carry them, and they can be bought in bulk online at shops like Frontiercoop.com and Mountainroseherbs.com – two of our favorites. Keep in mind that herbs and spices can last up anywhere from 1-3 years, so purchasing in bulk (4 oz versus 1oz) may work for some of your most utilized ones like pepper, oregano, basil and onion powder to name a few. Your favorite farm-to-table restaurants and healthy meal delivery services should be using these as well, so it’s always important to ask them about their quality standard for herbs and spices.