Sustainable Saturday - Organic Food Labels

There are multiple labels for natural and organic foods and it can be difficult to decipher.  If you're like me, you may want to make sure you are getting the most for your money without compromising quality.  Shopping at a Farmer's Market or directly from a farm are a really good way to ensure that you are getting a better product for your money.

There are many great resources out there to aid in this quest to find out more about the food you eat.  Much of this information comes from the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) website.

USDA Organic - General Background Information

Congress passed the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA) of 1990. The OFPA required the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to develop national standards for organically produced agricultural products to assure consumers that agricultural products marketed as organic meet consistent, uniform standards. 

Does natural mean organic?

No. Natural and organic are not interchangeable. Other truthful claims, such as free-range, hormone-free, and natural, can still appear on food labels. However, don't confuse these terms with "organic.“

Understanding the Organic Label

Look for the USDA organic seal on raw, fresh products and processed products that contain organic agricultural ingredients. Or it may appear on a sign above an organic produce display.
On multi-ingredient products, the seal is usually placed on the front of the package (principal display panel); however, it may be placed anywhere on the package. When you see this seal, you know the product is at least 95 percent organic.

The seal may be printed in green and brown (as shown), in black and white, or outlined in black on a transparent background.

Where to find the USDA Organic Seal

Any agricultural product that meets third-party or state certification requirements may be considered organic. A wide variety of organic foods are available, including: pasta, prepared sauces, juices, frozen meals, milk, ice cream and frozen novelties, cereals, meat, poultry, breads, soups, chocolate, cookies, alcoholic beverages and more. These foods, in order to be certified organic, have all been grown and processed according to USDA NOP organic standards. Organic fiber products include clothing, bed and bath linens, tablecloths, napkins, etc.

One of my favorite resources is National Geographic's Green Guide.  In the beginning it was a magazine publication, however now the Green Guide is only available online.  You can sign up here for their FREE monthly e-newsletter.

National Geographic's Green Guide - Beef Label Decoder which outlines the differences between USDA Organic, American Grassfed, USDA Process Verified, CERTIFIED HUMANE Raised and Handled, Food Alliance Certified and Animal Welfare Approved.

National Geographic's Green Guide - Coffee Label Decoder
which outlines the differences between Rainforest Alliance Certified, Bird Friendly, USDA Organic and Fair Trade Certified.

National Geographic's Green Guide - Meaningful Labels which outlines the qualifications for labels such as USDA Organic, Local and Regional Labels, Bird Friendly, Certified Humane Raised and Handled, Grass-fed, Green Seal, Forest Stewardship Council and Fair Trade.

I strongly recommend checking out resources such as The New Dirty Dozen:  12 Foods to Eat Organic for 2010 with the vegetables and fruits which contain the most pesticide residue.

Sustainable Saturday - Organic Food Labels was originally published by Saving Family Green in September 2010.

No comments: