How to Decode Organic Food Labels
There seems to be a lot of confusion over organic foods and what the term organic means when used in different contexts. Below you will find a short explanation of what each term means and hopefully it will help you decode those pesky labels!
But first, what does organic mean?
- Organic crops must be raised without using most conventional pesticides, petroleum-based fertilizers, or sewage sludge-based fertilizers.
- Animals raised on an organic operation must be fed organic feed and given access to the outdoors.
- Animal products labeled organic cannot be given antibiotics or growth hormones.
- In short, all foods wearing the USDA Organic Seal must be grown without chemicals, synthetic fertilizers, hormones and other genetically altered baddies.
- This label means the food cannot contain artificial colors or flavours, although some added enzymes, waxes and acids are actually allowed.
Okay, now that we understand that, let’s move on to decoding those labels:
100 percent Organic:
- Made with all organic ingredients, these products may use the USDA Organic seal.
- The fine print: May include added water and salt.
- Products must contain at least 95 percent organic ingredients, and may use the USDA Organic seal.
- The fine print: Organic meat and poultry must come from animals fed 100 percent organic feed, not given growth hormones or antibiotics, and not routinely confined. The National Organic Program, however, does not police animal treatment.
Made with Organic Ingredients:
- Products made with at least 70 percent organic ingredients may list organic ingredients on their labels but may not use the USDA Organic seal.
- The fine print: Products with less than 70 percent organic ingredients can use the word organic in ingredient lists only.
I hope this sheds some light on the labeling of pre-packaged organic foods and helps make your next trip to the grocery store a little easier!