What makes a product or food organic?

If you’re interested in healthy living and organic foods, it’s important to know what makes a product or food organic, especially since products with the organic label tend to be priced at a premium.

When reference is made to organic foods or products, it relates to a labeling term applied to items produced using a certified method. This involves foods grown with natural methods and fertilizers, rather than conventional chemical fertilizers, insecticides and herbicides. Organic food production also excludes genetic engineering and food additives.

What makes a product Certified Organic?

Requirements

For foods and products to qualify as organic, they must meet specific standards and requirements that may vary internationally. This involves every stage of the production and supply chain from organic farm growth to transportation to sales.

Some requirements may include:

1) Physical separation of organic products versus non-organic.

2) Using farmlands that have been cultivated only with non-synthetic chemicals over the past three years.

3) Maintaining proper records for sales and production.

4) Regular site inspections.

5) Refraining from using banned substances,(GMO) genetically modified organisms, and chemical fertilizers in plant or animal production and feed.

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Certification

Organic certification is important to help guarantee quality products, encourage consumer sales and avoid fraud. It also helps to assure consumers that the products are officially labeled and identifies producers as being certified organic. As part of the qualification process farmers often use third party or participatory certification methods.

Two categories of organic certification labeling that carry the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Organic Seal are “100% organic” for both products and methods used and “95% organic”, where at least 95% of the ingredients are organic. Another level is “made with organic ingredients”, which means items contain at least 70% organic ingredients.

Laws

Organic foods are grown on certified land with 100% natural methods and fertilizers.

The 1990 Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA) under Title 7, Section 205 of the Code of Federal Regulations(CFR) outlines the law regarding organic food products, which was updated in 2000 and 2002. The United States Department of Agriculture(USDA), based on the national standards established, approves all organic foods, crops and products. The federal agency, National Organic Program (NOP), regulates organic foods and products but USDA approved; states, private agencies and non-profit organizations may manage certification.

As you try to eat and live healthier, you want to be assured that you’re getting what you pay for when it comes to buying food or products that are labeled as organic. When you see the certified organic seal on foods and products, it’s an indication of how the items are grown, handled, processed and sold.  Seeing this label confirms that the product or food has been produced with all the extra effort and care that is required to earn the organic certification.

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