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What does it mean when a label says "organic"?

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) developed National Organic Standards (NOS) in 2002. The NOS implemented under the USDA’s National Organic Program provide specific criteria that food producers must meet during production, handling, and processing to label their products “organic.”

As a result of these standards, you can be confident that if the food is labeled as organic, it was produced and handled using specific guidelines and certified by a USDA-accredited inspector.

Organic farming involves growing crops without the use of some synthetic pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, bioengineering, or irradiation. Similarly, only antibiotic-free or growth hormone–free animals can be used to produce organic meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy foods.
 
Vandana  R. Sheth
Nutrition & Dietetics
According to the USDA "Organic foods are those that are produced without antibiotics, hormones, pesticides, irradiation or bioengineering. Organic farmers are also required to adhere to certain soil and water conservation methods and to rules about the humane treatment of animals." When reading labels keep in mind that Organic is not the same as natural and organic does not necessarily mean healthier.
Cheryl Tallman
Nutrition & Dietetics
Many stores are stocking their shelves with organically processed foods. In order to make it easier to shop for organic products, the USDA has defined special labeling:
  • "100% Organic" label means made with 100% organic ingredients;
  • "Organic" label means made with at least 95% organic ingredients;
  • "Made With Organic Ingredients" label means made with a minimum of 70% organic ingredients with strict restrictions on the remaining 30% including no GMOs (genetically modified organisms); and
  • Products with less than 70% organic ingredients may list organically produced ingredients on the side panel of the package, but may not make any organic claims on the front of the package.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.