USDA Organic Certification Requirements
Hi everyone, based on one of my first posts Cage Free Eggs Meaning I created I wanted to expand on organic labels and what it means to be certified with the USDA. The USDA has some strict requirements and my hope is that you find this article useful and informative.
The USDA, through its National Organic Program (NOP), is the only department that authorizes companies to label and market their products as Organic. Organic standards consider various factors such as the quality of soil, animal raising, pest and weed control practices, and input materials used in production.
Commercial producers of organic crops and livestock can qualify for USDA organic certification. Companies that process organic foods, animal feed or fibers are also eligible for organic certification. Restaurants that sell organic food and retailers/marketers who specialize in organic products may get the certification too. Companies can consult an organic certification agent to find out if they are eligible for USDA certification.
Before companies can be authorized to place the “USDA certified organic” label on their products they must meet a few USDA organic certification requirements.
In the case of food crops, there must be No sewage sludge, GMOs or ionizing radiation used in production. Also, the food must have been produced without most synthetic pesticides and fertilizers. I don’t know about you, but I certainly don’t want any sewage sludge in my food!
Organic meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products must have come from animals that were fed with 100% organic feed. These animals must also not have been given antibiotics or growth hormones, and they must have been raised in conditions that are consistent with their natural behaviors.
For produce to be labeled organic, it must have been grown on soil that has not had any prohibited substances for three years before the harvest of the said produce. This ensures that there will be no crop contamination from the soil.
Organic farmers are expected to use production methods that utilize renewable resources and promote soil and water conservation. This way, they improve and protect the environment for future generations.
To be organic certified, processed products must not have artificial preservatives, flavors, and dyes. There is, however, a few exceptions including baking soda and yogurt enzymes. Processed products have to use organic ingredients for them to be certified organic.
Various organic label statements describe different levels of organic content in products. We have described these label statements below.
100% Organic – This label statement means that the ingredients and the processing are 100% organic (excluding salt and water). The product’s package can have a USDA organic seal and “100% organic” statement. The package must also name the organic ingredients in the product and indicate the percentages.
Organic – This label statement means that 95% or more of the ingredients used are organic, and that some chemical additives that are approved by USDA may have been used during processing. The 5% or less ingredients may be nonorganic farm products that are not obtainable as organic on a commercial scale. The package may bear the USDA organic seal and an “organic” statement. The package should also identify the organic ingredients that make up the product.
Made with organic ———- – This label statement is meant for products that contain 70% or more organic ingredients (excluding salt and water). The guide on the nonorganic portion of the ingredients has multiple detailed constraints. Unlike the other two labels above, this label statement is not a USDA standard labeling statement. It can only be used inside of the ingredients panel on the label. The package must not bear the USDA organic seal or claim that the finished product is organic. The package must also not have a “made with organic ingredients” claim.
Specific ingredient listings – Products that contain less than 70% organic content may list the particular certified organic ingredients on the ingredients panel of the label and indicate the percentage for each. The package must not have the USDA organic seal. The package must also not include the word “organic” anywhere else outside of the organic ingredients list.
There is an exemption to the USDA certification rules. Producers who make less than $5000 in annual revenue are not required to apply for USDA organic certification. They can label their products as organic, but they must not put the USDA organic seal on their packages.
USDA organic certification rules are meant to protect and preserve the health of the consumers. You should always check the label on the package carefully to ascertain the level of organic content in the product.
Even though the USDA organic certification rules are stringent, companies can get value from acquiring the certification, because certified organic products are in high demand and rightfully so as more and more attention is given to what is used to produce our food and the residues that are left behind that we ingest.
A lot of information to digest and if you’re looking for some basic “organic” information I found a short You Tube video that you might enjoy.
Come visit me again soon as I’m working on another important article around organic clothing. I have found some quite interesting facts and retailers that sell organic clothing for adults, children and infants.
As always I welcome your comments, suggestions and feedback.
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