| HOW TO READ USDA ORGANIC LABELS |
October 21, 2002 marked the first day that organic farmers and processors began to use the new USDA seal. Use of the seal is voluntary, but US regulations do establish requirements for the use of the word organic on food and other agricultural products Those regulations result in labeling changes as organic food products still on the shelves are used up. Requirements include verification from a certification agency as meeting or exceeding USDA standards. Farmers who gross less than $5000 from organic products and sell direct to consumers or retailers are exempt from the certification requirement. Those farmers may call their product organic, but they can't use the new USDA seal.
As promised by USDA, the regulations:
- prohibit the use of irradiation, sewage sludge, or genetically modified organisms in organic production;
- reflect NOSB recommendations concerning items on the national list of allowed synthetic and prohibited natural substances;
- prohibit antibiotics in organic meat and poultry; and
- require 100% organic feed for organic livestock.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) approved four categories of organic labels, based on the percentage of organic content. The organic labels began to appear on store shelves on October 21, 2002:
1. 100 Percent Organic - may carry USDA Organic Seal
2. Organic - at least 95% of content is organic by weight (excluding water and salt) and may carry the USDA Organic Seal.
3. Made With Organic - at least 70% of content is organic and the front product panel may display the phrase "Made with Organic" followed by up to three specific ingredients. (May not display new USDA Organic seal)
4. Less than 70 % of content is organic and may list only those ingredients that are organic on the ingredient panel with no mention of organic on the main panel. (May not display new USDA Organic seal)