By JEFF DURBIN, Missourian staff writer
April 28, 1999

When the guilt sets in from eating two 16-ounce steaks, don't despair-go straight to the Web and order organic lamb from the Zen Sheep Farm. Recovering from a cookie binge? Next time, order Health Valley Fat Free Date Cookies, with no additives or preservatives.

From baby and kosher foods to chocolate bars, organic foods are now widely available by mail order. A good starting point is on the Web at hyperlink

Nick Vanee, a partner in Eco-Organics, an Internet produce seller, said his customers are diverse and they look for quality and convenience. He sends produce in insulated boxes via UPS.

"You don't find organic stores on every corner," Vanee said. "We bring it to the front door. Once people try it, they value how convenient it is."

The Web is also a good search tool for finding organic stores where you live or travel.

Go to index.html to find stores around the country and the world.

Natalie Parks, produce manager at Columbia's Clovers Natural Foods, said she doesn't understand why people would order products online when they can go to a local store that has fresh food. Clovers carries specialized foods, and welcomes customer suggestions for new items, Parks said.

"I would be more for putting dollars into the local economy than sending the money to Colorado or California," Parks said.

Online consumers should check for organic certification, Parks said. There are a number of reputable third-party certifiers, but no national organic standard exists. The federal government plans to release another draft of its organic regulations this summer, with a standard expected next year.

Organic food is big business and getting bigger. Without a clear definition of what organic food is, it's hard to estimate business volume, but the industry has been growing at roughly 20 percent every year for the last five years, said Karen Raterman, editor of Natural Foods Merchandiser magazine. Organic sales totaled just over $4 billion in 1997. No figures are available for mail-order sales.

Most Internet companies are focusing on packaged food and dietary supplements, Raterman said.

"Mail doesn't work well for perishables," she said.