I have a lot of people ask me how to tell if a food or food product is Organic.
Simply stated, Organic Produce and other Organic Ingredients are grown without the use of Pesticides, Synthetic Fertilizers, Sewage Sludge, Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOS), or Ionizing Radiation.
Organic or Pasture-raised Animals that produce meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products do not take antibiotics or growth hormones.
The USDA National Organic Program (NOP) defines organic as follows:
Organic food is produced by farmers who emphasize the use of renewable resources and the conservation of soil and water to enhance environmental quality for future generations. Organic meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products come from animals that are given no antibiotics or growth hormones. Organic food is produced without using most conventional pesticides; fertilizers made with synthetic ingredients or sewage sludge; bioengineering; or ionizing radiation. Before a product can be labeled "organic," a Government-approved certifier inspects the farm where the food is grown to make sure the farmer is following all the rules necessary to meet USDA organic standards. Companies that handle or process organic food before it gets to your local supermarket or restaurant must be certified, too.
It should also be noted that if a food is labeled "Organic" that means it is also non-GMO. It has to be or it doesn't qualify for Organic status.
So, How do you know if a product is Organic?
The USDA has identified three categories of labeling organic products:
1. 100% Organic: Made with 100% organic ingredients.
2. Organic: Made with at least 95% - 99% organic ingredients. The remaining ingredients are not available organically but have been approved by the NOP. These products may display the USDA Organic seal.
3. Made With Organic Ingredients: Food packaging baring this label must contain 70% - 94% organic ingredients with strict restrictions on the remaining 30% including no GMOs (genetically modified organisms). These products will not bear the USDA Organic seal.
-- Products with less than 70% organic ingredients may list organically produced ingredients on the side panel of the package, but may not make any organic claims on the front of the package.
What does the USDA Organic Seal really mean?
The USDA Organic seal assures consumers of the quality and integrity of organic products. Organic-certified operations must have an organic system plan and records that verify compliance with that plan. Operators are inspected annually in addition to random checks to assure standards are being met.