iPhone App Claims It Can Detect If Food Is Organic: A Local Organic Farmer Weighs In | Clean Plate Charlie | South Florida | Broward Palm Beach New Times | The Leading Independent News Source in Broward-Palm Beach, Florida

Ethical Eating

iPhone App Claims It Can Detect If Food Is Organic: A Local Organic Farmer Weighs In

Ever get the sneaking suspicion that corporations -- or hell, even the mango vendor at the local farmers' market -- are conspiring to use your fear of ingesting chemicals to get you to spend more money on food? Those who worry that they're being misled about the veracity of certain "organic" claims will soon have a pricy tool to protect themselves; at least in theory.    

Lapka has created a personal environmental monitor via a sleek iPhone accessory and app that claims to be able to test for radiation, electromagnetic fields, humidity, and organicity by way of four separate plug-ins. The product should debut in late 2012 and according to the maker, the device "is designed to look for significant quantities of nitrates in raw foods and drinking water caused by residues of synthetic fertilizers." Notice the word raw: This won't be able to tell you whether those Newman-O's live up to their label. 

The device tests for organicity by way of a tiny stainless steel probe -- designed "for medical accuracy and enhanced durability" -- that is inserted into the food. So, yeah: You'll have to stab the food in order to evaluate it. Not sure how Whole Foods or Publix will take to shoppers poking holes in their apples and kale before purchase, so good luck with that one. But that's not the only reason to pause before plunking down $220 for the innovative device. 

Because the product description only mentions nitrates (certainly not the only issue at hand with organics), Clean Plate Charlie reached out to resident organic farming expert and "hot farmer" Jason McCobb (aka. Farmer Jay) for his take on the device. Bear in mind that neither McCobb nor Clean Plate Charlie have used or interacted with Lapka, so all comments are based only on press materials available at this time. 

"The concept is interesting, but I am more worried about pesticide and fungicide residues," said McCobb via email. "Doesn't sound like it will detect those. I like some of the other features better, like EMF and radiation (detection). It will probably be like the mosquito repellent app or the metal detector app; good in theory, but not functional."

McCobb also made an interesting point about what the market for such a device says about some people's inclinations to exploit the organic food movement: "It really sucks that we need to spend so much money and time to protect ourselves from liars and people that are trying to scavenge on our movement." 

If going organic is important to you, make friends with local growers and give your business to people you feel you can trust. Otherwise, for now -- as always -- the only way to know what you're getting, with 100-percent certainty, is to grow it yourself. Good thing Florida's hell summer is just about coming to a close. 

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Tricia Woolfenden

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