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Questions About Organic Food Labels

Written by  Kasia Keyser 10 October 2014
Published in USDA Compliance

USDA organic seal Here at RL Food Testing Laboratory, we often get questions from our customers about organic food labels. In a recent blog article New Guidelines for Organic Food Labels, we review the new rules set forth by the National Organic Program (NOP). Below are some general questions about organic food labeling that you may find helpful to understand what is organic, when can you use the organic seal, and how do you get your product certified organic.

What is organic?

Organic refers not only to the food itself, but also how it is handled and produced. Organic food production is based on a system of farming that copycats a natural ecosystem and maintains and refills the fertility and nutrients of the soil. These methods mix cultural, biological, and mechanical practices that foster cycling of resources, promote ecological balance, and preserve biodiversity. Organic foods are produced without genetically modified organism (GMO) and radiation.

What is an organic seal?

The USDA Organic Seal is a seal, or label, that is affixed to certified USDA organic products.
Two levels of certified products are allowed to have the USDA Organic Seal:
  • 100% USDA certified organic products that are made with 100% organic ingredients
  • Organic products that are made with at least 95% organic ingredients

What are the requirements for a 100% organic label?

In order for a product to be labeled as 100% organic the following requirements must be met:
  • The product contains 100% USDA certified organic ingredients
  • Zero non-organic ingredients are allowed in the product
  • Any processing aids used must be organic
  • A 100% organic certified product is allowed to have the USDA Organic Seal

What are the requirements for an organic label?

In order for a product to be labeled organic, the product must have the following characteristic:
  • The product must contain at least 95% organic ingredients
  • Remaining 5% of the ingredients can be non-organic
  • All agricultural ingredients in the product must be organic unless not available
  • An "Organic" product is allowed to wear the USDA Organic Seal (Organic Apple Juice)

What are the requirements for products that are labeled "Made with Organic Ingredients?

Products that are processed and contain at least 70% organic ingredients can use the phrase "made with organic ingredients". The manufacturer will have to list up to three of the organic ingredients or food groups on the main display panel. Furthermore, foods that contain at least 70% organic ingredients will not be able to place the USDA seal on their product.

Is an Organic Label mandatory on an organic product?

Labeling is optional. But, labeling is encouraged because these labels help consumers to identify products quickly. It will help consumers understand the type of organic product they are purchasing.

Once the USDA labels a product as "organic" will the item still be subject to the laws and regulations that are enforced by the FDA?
Yes, foods that are labeled as organic must follow with both the USDA guidelines for the organic claim as well as with the FDA regulations for labeling.

If a product claims organic, does it also need to be certified?

Yes, any final product claiming organic ingredients needs to be certified.

Where can I get my product certified as organic?

The National Organic Program oversees USDA endorsed certifying agents and their organic production and handling operations. Producers can view a current list which shows all certified, cancelled and suspended operations as they have been reported to the NOP on January 2, 2014. Only the specialized operations can label, sell or represent their product as organic.

Can I download the USDA Organic Seal?

Yes, the seal for 100% organic certified products can be downloaded here. The user has the option of four color seals or black and white seals.

Read 1794 times Last modified on Tuesday, 11 November 2014 18:18
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