How Organic Is Organic?

Can a food be only partly organic?

Under today’s standards, yes.  If it has more than one ingredient.

Under the latest USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) organic standards, food producers can slap a “USDA Organic” label on their products as long as 95% of the ingredients, by weight, are organic.  This means that 5% of your food may be composed of ingredients that would by themselves violate national organic standards.

Does this make the USDA Organic label worthless?  Far from it.  Even if 5% of your product does not meet organic guidelines, you still are eating something that is predominately organic.  Plus, you can always look for the words “100% organic”, which may be, and are very likely to be, used on products that are made of 100% organic ingredients.  Of course, if you are eating a whole food, such as a tomato or a potato, then you need not worry whether it is 100% organic: it is either 100% organic, or 100% not organic.

100% Organic I Think

USDA Regulations Have Done Away with This Sort of Uncertainty.

Foods that do not meet the 95% threshold, and that therefore cannot use the USDA Organic seal, may still be able to advertise that they are “made with organic ingredients”, if they consist of at least 70% organic ingredients by weight.  Hence a blueberry cereal made of at least 70% organic ingredients by weight, whose blueberries are all organic, may claim to be “made with organic blueberries”.   But it won’t show the USDA Organic stamp unless it exceeds 95% organic ingredients.

Sound complicated?  It is, and some in the industry want to simplify the standards so as to avoid consumer confusion.  But as with most laws and regulations in a democracy, this one is a product of compromise among many interested parties, and it may be the best we can expect for the time being.

Plus, if you are the type of person who cares whether your product is 95% organic rather than 100% organic, you are probably the type of consumer who can learn to look for the phrase “100% organic”.  The system could be simpler, but the information is out there if you want to learn the ropes.

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4 Responses to How Organic Is Organic?

  1. I love organic, it’s a little expensive , but in the long run cheaper to our health.
    kind regards
    Christiana

  2. Pingback: Organic Product Review: Ezekiel 4:9 | Organaholic! Organic Food Blog

  3. Murat says:

    Consumers are inundated with oiganrc claims on all manner of products and with frequent media stories surrounding the potential health risks and unknowns of anything remotely synthetic curiosity for oiganrc products is at an all-time high with product sales skyrocketing. Celebrities and cosmetic companies are launching skin-care products labeled oiganrc faster than you can say but is this really good for my skin?! ..Organically speaking what does the term oiganrc mean in the world of cosmetics but principally for skin care?

    • Doug says:

      Murat, This is a great question. It does seem silly to call cosmetic products “organic.” I believe what it means is that all the ingredients in the cosmetic product were grown organically, without the use of most chemical fertilizers, pesticides or herbicides, the same as with food. So there are benefits to the environment, since you’re not putting chemicals into the ground, or into our water, to grow the ingredients. Also, there may well be health benefits, as what you’re rubbing all over your skin won’t have pesticide residues in it. I’m not 100% sure that this happens, but it’s very possible that pesticides in cosmetics you rub on your skin (just like pesticides in the food you eat) find their way into our bodies. These pesticides have been linked–albeit at high levels of exposure–to various illnesses, and they may well do damage at lower levels of exposure as well. It’s really tough to know for sure. I hope this is helpful.

      Best,
      Doug

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