According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), consumer demand for organic food products is on the rise. Studies have shown that the increased demand is due to health and environmental concerns, as well as concern for the humane treatment of animals. The growing market makes labeling a product as organic an appealing option, but what are the regulations for doing so? Can one simply add the word “organic” to a food label? The answer is no.
The USDA National Organic Program (NOP) regulates organic standards and claims for food. According to USDA, “organic food is produced without using most conventional pesticides; fertilizers made with synthetic ingredients or sewage sludge; bioengineering; or ionizing radiation.” Organic food is also produced per the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances (National List). In order to be labeled as organic, a product generally must be certified organic by a USDA-accredited certifying agent. Certifying agents can be found throughout the world, and will inspect a farm or facility to ensure products are grown and processed according to USDA NOP standards.
A product must be at least 95 percent organic to include the USDA organic seal on its label or to claim to be organic or “made with organic ingredients”. The graph below demonstrates some of the other requirements for organic food labels.
A person who labels a product “organic” when they know it does not meet USDA standards is subject to a fine of up to $11,000 for each violation.
Organic farms and businesses with a gross agricultural income from organic sales of less than $5,000 may label their products as organic without being certified. However, they cannot use the USDA organic seal or refer to their products as “certified organic.” Aside from the certification requirement, other USDA organic labeling requirements still apply.
Organic foods must comply with both USDA’s organic labeling regulations and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) food labeling regulations. Registrar Corp assists food facilities with U.S. FDA compliance. Registrar Corp’s Label and Ingredient Review Specialists can review and modify a food label for FDA compliance, as well as offer guidance regarding organic and other claims. Clients receive a detailed report and a print-ready graphic file of their label that incorporates Registrar Corp’s suggested changes.
For questions regarding organic claims or assistance with a food label, contact Registrar Corp at +1-757-224-0177 or via 24-hour Live Help at www.registrarcorp.com/livehelp.