What Does “Organic” On A Food Label Actually Mean?

More and more consumers are becoming aware of the dangers of the toxins in our food supply (and everywhere else!) and are willing to pay more for “organic” items in the grocery store. But advertisers play fast and loose with these terms so we need to know exactly what we’re buying. Hopefully, this guide will clear up any confusion.

The “Musts” For A Genuine Organic Label

+ Organic produce must be grown without synthetic fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides.

+ Organic meat and dairy livestock receive no antibiotics or added hormones and are raised on organic feed.

+ Organic products never use genetic engineering or irradiation.

The USDA Label

In the US, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) supposedly strictly enforces organic production, although I’m not certain that’s always the case. However, some products are also certified by 3rd parties and only the first two below are allowed to use the seal:

100% Organic: the food contains only organic ingredients (seal)

USDA Certified Organic: products that contain at least 95% organic ingredients – the remaining small amount is not available in an organic form (seal)

Made With Organic Ingredients: 70%-95% organic. Read the label to see the organic and non-organic ingredients (no seal)

Other Familiar Terms

Contains Organic Ingredients: under 70% organic and they are listed on the label

All-Natural: foods that are minimally processed and contain no artificial colors, flavors, preservatives or sweeteners

Earth-Friendly: produced in a way that is less harmful to the environment like using recycled waste 

Vegetarian: foods derived from plant sources but may contain egg or dairy products from animals

Vegan: plant products with no eggs or dairy

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