Organic Food Certification – What It ‘Really’ Means to You The Consumer

If you are ‘really’ concerned about consuming more or only Organic foods carefully read and fully understand what the Food and Drug administration and the Department of Agricultural regulations require for a product to be labeled Organic.

USDA Organic Certification

What Does the “USDA/FDA – Organic” Label Really Mean?

If a food bears a USDA Organic label, it means it’s produced and processed according to the USDA standards and that at least 95 percent of the food’s ingredients are organically produced. The seal is voluntary, but many organic producers use it.

Products that are completely organic such as fruits, vegetables, eggs or other single-ingredient foods are labeled 100 percent organic and can carry a small USDA seal. Foods that have more than one ingredient, such as breakfast cereal, can use the USDA organic seal or the following wording on their package labels, depending on the number of organic ingredients.

100 percent organic. Products that are completely organic or made of all organic ingredients.
Organic. Products that are at least 95 percent organic.

Made with organic ingredients. These are products that contain at least 70 percent organic ingredients. The organic seal can’t be used on these packages. Foods containing less than 70 percent organic ingredients can’t use the organic seal or the word “organic” on their product label. They can include the organic items in their ingredient list, however.

You may see other terms on food labels, such as “all-natural,” “free-range” or “hormone-free.” These descriptions may be important to you, but don’t confuse them with the term “organic.” Only those foods that are grown and processed according to USDA organic standards can be labeled organic.
Organic food: Buy or bypass?

Many factors may influence your decision to buy or not buy organic food. Consider these factors:
Nutrition. No conclusive evidence shows that organic food is more nutritious than is conventionally grown food. And the USDA even though it certifies organic food — doesn’t claim that these products are safer or more nutritious.

Quality and appearance. Organic foods meet the same quality and safety standards as conventional foods. The difference lies in how the food is produced, processed and handled. You may find that organic fruits and vegetables spoil faster because they aren’t treated with waxes or preservatives. Also, expect less-than-perfect appearances in some organic produce odd shapes, varying colors and perhaps smaller sizes. In most cases, however, organic foods look identical to their conventional counterparts.

Pesticides. Conventional growers use pesticides to protect their crops from molds, insects and diseases. When farmers spray pesticides, this can leave residue on produce. Some people buy organic food to limit their exposure to these residues. Most experts agree, however, that the amount of pesticides found on fruits and vegetables poses a very small health risk.

Environment. Some people buy organic food for environmental reasons. Organic farming practices are designed to benefit the environment by reducing pollution and conserving water and soil.

Cost. Most organic food costs more than conventional food products. Higher prices are due to more expensive farming practices, tighter government regulations and lower crop yields. Because organic farmers don’t use herbicides or pesticides, many management tools that control weeds and pests are labor intensive. For example, organic growers may hand weed vegetables to control weeds, and you may end up paying more for these vegetables.

Taste. Some people say they can taste the difference between organic and nonorganic food. Others say they find no difference. Taste is a subjective and personal consideration, so decide for yourself. Whether you buy organic or not, finding the freshest foods available may have the biggest impact on taste.

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