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Thursday, February 7, 2008

Organic Labels: What Do They Mean?

If you are like me, you can easily become confused by all the verbage that is posted on products. It is almost as if you need a degree in Label Reading to be able to properly determine what the product is really about. Is there anyone else out there who is asking the question, Do I really know what's in my dinner?

  • 100% Organic: According to USDA’s national organic standard, products labeled as “100 percent organic” can only contain organically produced ingredients. Products containing 100% organic ingredients can display the USDA Organic logo and / or the certifying agent's logo.
  • Organic: To be labeled as "organic," 95% of the ingredients must be organically grown and the remaining 5% must come from non-organic ingredients that have been approved on the National List. These products can also display the USDA organic logo and/or the certifier’s logo.
  • Made With Organic Ingredients: Food products labeled as "made with organic ingredients" must be made with at least 70% organic ingredients, three of which must be listed on the back of the package and again, the remaining 30% of the non-organic ingredients must approved on the National List. These products may display the certifier’s logo but not the USDA organic logo.
  • Certified Organic: Foods must be grown according to strict uniform standards that are verified by independent states or private organizations; certified organic foods mean that periodic testing of soil and water of farms that produce organic foods must be conducted, and field and processing facilities must be inspected
  • Transitional: these are foods produced during the three-year transition period between the conversion of conventional and organic food production
  • Free Range: USDA regulations allow for a generous definition. These could mean the coop door is open for five minutes a day, whether or not the chickens go out. The rule for the label's use on poultry products, for example, is merely that outdoor access be available for "an undetermined period each day."
  • Natural/ All Natural: No government agency regulates the use of this word. No standard definition for these terms exists, except when it's applied to meat and poultry products, which the USDA defines as not containing any artificial flavoring, colors or synthetic ingredients.

Did You Know?

All three organics categories prohibit the inclusion of any ingredients produced using genetic engineering, irradiation, or sewage sludge.

Products with less than 70 percent organic ingredients can list the organic items only in the ingredient panel. There can be no mention of organic on the main panel.

The National Organic Standards Board (NOSB), an expert advisory panel to the USDA’s National Organic Program, voted to exclude cloned animals, their offspring, and any food products from cloned animals from the organic sector.

Fruit Labels
The numbers on a fruit label actually have a meaning, and one that you may want to know about.

  • If the first number is a 4 then it is an conventionally grown product EX: Banana 4011
  • If the first number is an 8, then it is genetically engineered EX: Banana 84011
  • If the first number is an 9, then it is an organic product EX: Banana 94011


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