The Organic Label

Organic labelling 101

What to look for: USDA Certified Organic Label= Legitimate (mostly, kinda, sorta)

organic

What to watch out for: Non-USDA labelled claims= Higher Chance for bullshit

cert organic

How Labelling Works

There are two areas where organic claims can be made on certified packaging:

Principal display panel (PRETTY FRONT PANEL): portion of the package most likely to be seen by customers at the time of purchase. Marketing here for certified producers are monitored by agents for compliance. It should be noted that this system expanded so quickly that while each label is approved individually—the product itself is usually NOT investigated to PROVE that it is what they say it is.

food label front

Information panel (Persnickety Fine Print): includes ingredient statement (list of ingredients contained in a product, from highest to lowest percentage of final product) and other product information.

back panel

The four categories of labeling based on product composition & the labeling specifications for each are summarized below:

1. “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.”

Principal display panel: May include USDA organic seal and/or 100 percent organic claim.

Information Panel: Must identify organic ingredients (e.g., organic dill) or via asterisk or other mark.

2. “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 and/or nonagricultural products.

Principal display panel: May include USDA organic seal and/or organic claim.

Information Panel: Must identify organic ingredients (e.g., organic dill) or via asterisk or other mark.

***All organic meat must be fed from organic feed sources. The likelihood of organic animal feed truly being used in mass production is slim. Why? No one produces organic corn in quantities to feed a large scale operation.

3. “Made with 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.”

Information Panel: Must identify organic ingredients (e.g., organic dill) or via asterisk or other mark.

4. Specific Ingredient Listings

The specific organic ingredients may be listed in the ingredient statement of products containing less than 70 percent organic contents—for example, “Ingredients: water, barley, beans, organic tomatoes, salt.”

Principal display panel: Must not include USDA organic seal anywhere or the word “organic” on principal display panel.

Information Panel: May only list certified organic ingredients as organic in the ingredient list and the percentage of organic ingredients. Remaining ingredients are not required to follow the USDA organic regulations.

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.