Organic can mean different things to different people, so, I will use (USDA) United States Department of Agriculture’s definition for Organic farming and labeling products as Organic.
USDA said “organic” might appear as one more piece of information to decipher when shopping for foods. Understanding what “organic” really means can help shoppers make informed choices during their next visit to the supermarket or farmers’ market.
Produce can be called organic if it’s certified to have grown on soil that had no prohibited substances applied for three years prior to harvest. Prohibited substances include most synthetic fertilizers and pesticides.
Organic meat, regulations require that animals are raised in living conditions accommodating their natural behaviors (like the ability to graze on pasture), fed 100% organic feed and forage, and not administered antibiotics or hormones.
When it comes to processed, multi-ingredient foods, the USDA organic standards specify additional considerations.
Regulations prohibit organically processed foods from containing artificial preservatives, colors, or flavors and require that their ingredients are organic, with some minor exceptions.
For example, processed organic foods may contain some approved non-agricultural ingredients, like enzymes in yogurt, pectin in fruit jams, or baking soda in baked goods.
USDA labeling: “100 percent organic”
“100 percent organic” can be used to label any product that contains 100 percent organic ingredients (excluding salt and water, which are considered natural). Most raw, unprocessed farm products can be designated “100 percent organic.” Likewise, many value-added farm products that have no added ingredients—such as grain flours, rolled oats, etc. can also be labeled “100 percent organic.”
“Organic” can be used to label any product that contains a minimum of 95 percent organic ingredients (excluding salt and water). Up to 5 percent of the ingredients may be nonorganic agricultural products that are not commercially available as organic.
“Made with Organic ______” can be used to label a product that contains at least 70 percent organically produced ingredients (excluding salt and water). There are a number of detailed constraints regarding the ingredients that comprise the nonorganic portion.
Principal display panel: May state “made with organic (insert up to three ingredients or ingredient categories).” Must not include USDA organic seal anywhere, represent finished product as organic, or state “made with organic ingredients.”
Use Caution when shopping and buying organic foods at Farmers Markets. Sellers can and sometimes do sell produce as organic when in truth the produce may or may not truly be an organic product.
Exemptions & Exclusions
Producers who market less than $5,000 worth of organic products annually are not required to apply for organic certification. They must, however, comply with the organic production and handling requirements of the regulations, including recordkeeping (records must be kept for at least 3 years). The products from such noncertified operations cannot be used as organic ingredients in processed products produced by another operation; such noncertified products also are not allowed to display the USDA certified organic seal.
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