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October 14, 1974

The Organic Food Myth

JAMA. 1974;230(2):276-277. doi:10.1001/jama.1974.03240020064031

MANY people are worried about contamination that they think exists in their foods. This feeling has always existed, and it is now focused on a fear of "chemical residues" and "additives." The apprehension resulted in part from a series of widely publicized episodes; among them are the banning of cyclamates, contamination of poultry meat with polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and dieldrin, the "Chinese Restaurant syndrome" (attributed to monosodium glutamate), nitrates in baby foods, and the bans on diethylstilbestrol (DES) in meat, and on the use of DDT in agriculture.

Some of these incidents are the results of highly sensitive analytical methods used for detecting minute traces of contaminants. Indeed, contaminants are readily found, but at levels not known to have any injurious effect. The fear of residues in foods is actually based on a state of mind, not on tangible evidence. Progress in technology has placed us consumers out of touch