Tuesday, January 8, 2008

What organic label means?

What really means the organic label when we refer to food? Many people are spending a quite substantial amount of money just to buy organic. Just having the word organic written on the label and suddenly that product becomes attractive. But not always, the organic label means that the product is organic. Organic means that food producers must meet very strict standards. To assure that a particular label is correctly placed and the product is organic it has to have the USDA organic seal on it.

What labels to look for:

Organic: the product is at least 95 percent organic. The word "organic" and a small sticker version of the USDA Organic seal appears on vegetables or pieces of fruit, on packages of meat, cartons of milk or eggs, cheese, and other single-ingredient foods. Exception: The seafood is not regulated by USDA, therefore an organic label placed on these products is meaningless.

100% Organic: the product is 100% organic which means is free of chemical ingredients and the production of them has to meet federal standards.

Made with organic ingredients: at least 70% of the ingredients are organic.

Contains organic ingredients: less than 70% of the ingredients are organic.

Attention! Only 100% Organic and Organic foods are allowed to use the USDA Organic Seal.

Misleading labels:

Natural and All Natural: This label is not identical with Organic. There is no standard definition for this term which means that it is not regulated by any federal institution. The only exception is applied to meat and poultry products - defined by USDA as “not containing any artificial flavoring, colors, chemical preservatives, or synthetic ingredients”. However, the claim is not verified and the producer alone decides whether to use it.

Free-range: Eggs, chicken, and other meat labeled as free-range suggest that an animal has spent a good part of its life outdoors. But the U.S. government rule for the use of this label is stating that the outdoor access should be made available for “an undetermined period each day”. But the rule is weak because it refers to the outdoor access not the actual time spent outside. Let’s say that the coop door was open for just 10 minutes a day, the meat and eggs could legally be labeled “free-range”, regardless of whether the chickens went outside.

Also cage-free, hormone-free does not mean organic and the U.S. government rule for the use of these labels is weak.

For more information visit Organic Food Standards and Labels: The Facts.

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