USDA's National Organic Standards
How can I tell whether food has met the organic standards? See what USDA's national standards are for organic food.
of October 21, 2002,
the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has put in place a set of
organic standards that food labeled organic must meet, whether it is grown
or imported from other countries. To determine whether a food meets the
standards, a U.S. Government-approved certifier inspects the farm where
food is grown to make sure the farmer is following all the necessary
Companies that handle or process organic food before it gets
stores or restaurants must be certified as well.
with the national
organic standards, the USDA has developed strict new labeling rules to
consumers know the exact organic content of the food they buy. The USDA
seal, increasingly common after October 2002, indicates a product is at
Use of the seal is voluntary,
however, farmers who knowingly sell a
product labeled organic that fails to meet USDA organic standards can be fined
$10,000 for each violation.
The USDA label may appear
on stickers on the packaging, outer skin, or display signs for
single-ingredient foods such as produce, milk, meat, eggs, or cheese.
with more than one ingredient:
There are four categories
for organic foods with more than one ingredient. The first three
prohibit the inclusion of any ingredients produced using genetic
irradiation, or sewage sludge.
products that have
been exclusively produced using organic methods carry this label.
least 95% of the
ingredients (by weight, excluding water and salt) in products carrying
label must be organically produced.
Made with organic:
Products with 70 to 95%
organic ingredients may display “Made with organic [with
specific ingredient or
ingredients listed]” on the front panel.
than 70% organic:
with less than
70% organic ingredients may list these specific items in the ingredient
actual percent of
organic content may be displayed on all products, regardless of label
However, the rule specifies the actual dimensions that are allowed in
displaying the content, and, as noted earlier, the percentage for
less than 70% organic ingredients can only be displayed in the
panel. In all four labeling categories, the product cannot use both
non-organic versions of the same ingredient.
Note that labels
make other truthful claims about their food content, such as
“hormone-free,” but these claims are not
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The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI)
The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) is a nonprofit education and advocacy organization that focuses on improving the safety and nutritional quality of the food supply. CSPI makes sure that the farmers and corporations lves up the organic standards. CSPI seeks to promote health through educating the public; influencing laws, and encouraging more responsible corporate practices.
More on Organic Standards, See CSPI