On May 2, 2014, the National Organic Program (NOP) issued new guidelines for organic food labels. These new guidelines were the result of the organic trade and certifiers request for the NOP to clarify the requirements for “Made with Organic” labeling category.
The new guidelines for organic food labeling clarifies the following five aspects of products that are labeled “Made with Organic:” 1. Composition 2. Compliant organic labeling claims 3. Organic and non-organic forms of the same ingredient 4. Percentage of organic ingredients statements 5. Ingredients or food groups in the “made with organic” claim
In order to label the product “made with organic” it must contain at least 70% organic ingredients, excluding salt and water. It cannot contain any ingredients that were made using excluded methods such as ionizing radiation, genetic engineering or sewage sludge.
The USDA defines excluded methods as various "Methods used to genetically modify organisms or influence their growth and development by means that are not possible under natural conditions or processes”. If these conditions are met then the product can be labeled “made with organic.”
Compliant organic labeling claims
If it meets the above percentage requirements then the label can say “made with organic.” Up to three ingredients, combination of ingredients or food groups may be inserted after. You cannot say “85% organic”. It must be an ingredient specific claim such as “made with organic sugar”. Also specific ingredients cannot have a percent organic statement like “100% organic flour”.
All labeling “made with organic” cannot stand out among the rest of the labeling. It must be the same format as the rest of the label. No highlighting and the text must not be more than half the size of the largest text.
Organic and non-organic forms of the same ingredient
A product that is made with both organic and non-organic forms of an ingredient must be labeled as such. If the ingredient label statement is “made with organic sugar and corn” then both ingredients must be organic. You could also say “made with organic sugar and organic corn.”
Ingredients or food groups in the “made with organic” claim
The “made with organic” label may include a combined total of three ingredients, food groups or a combination of both.
If a statement is made in regards to an ingredient on the label “Made with organic apples” then all forms of an apple must be organic. Anything derived from apples must be organic as well such as apple juice.
If a product is stating “Made with organic milk” then all milk-based products, such as yogurt, cheese, or whey powder must be certified organic.
Only certain items can be listed as food groups – beans, fish, fruits, grains, herbs, meats, nuts, oils, poultry, seeds, spices, sweeteners, vegetables or processed milk products.
The final guidance documents are available from the COP through the Program Handbook: Guidance and Instructions for Accredited Certifying Agents and Certified Operations.
Helpful examples of these new guidelines for organic food labels can be viewed here.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) is requesting food nutrition information available to schools that participate in the National School Lunch Program and the School Breakfast Program (“SMPs”). According to the Federal Register dated 8/19/2011, “FNS is interested in examining what nutrition information and ingredient lists are made available to schools, the manner and scope of the information’s accessibility, and how that information and accessibility compare with the information schools may be seeking” in hopes to better understand how schools are currently deciding how to plan their menus and buy their foods.