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New Hampshire Dept of Agriculture, Market, & Foods Organic Program
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LABEL REPORT CARD
How meaningful is the label? Is the label verified? Is the meaning of the label consistent? Are the label standards publicly available? Is information about the organization publicly available? Is the organization free from conflict of interest? Was the label developed with broad public and industry input?
Meaningful1 Yes No2 Yes Yes Yes Yes3
1. Given the concerns with standards and oversight over the last few years, CR no longer rates "organic" as highly meaningful but meaningful. However "100% Organic" is still Highly Meaningful, while "Made with Organic [Specified Ingredient]" is only somewhat meaningful.
2. Inconsistencies exist for poultry and eggs, personal care and cosmetics as well as inconsistencies for antibiotic use and artificial ingredient approval.
3. There have been instances where the USDA has initiated policy changes (such as materials review) which have not gone through public notice and rulemaking--which have been opposed by several groups including CR.
 
LABEL CATEGORY:
Organic, Not Genetically Modified (non-GMO), Sustainable Agriculture, Animal Welfare
 
WHERE YOU'LL FIND THIS LABEL:

 FOOD
  • BEEF
  • COFFEE, CHOCOLATE AND TEA
  • DAIRY
  • EGGS
  • FRUIT
  • LAMB
  • OTHER BEVERAGES
  • PORK
  • POULTRY
  • PROCESSED FOOD AND NUTS
  • VEGETABLES, LEGUMES AND GRAINS

     PERSONAL CARE
  •  
     
    WHAT THIS LABEL MEANS:
    The New Hampshire Department of Agriculture and Foods has been certifying products as organic since 1989 and is accredited as an organic certifier by the USDA.

    All organic certifiers must be accredited by the USDA. Only products containing at least 95% organic ingredients may display the USDA Organic seal in addition to the certifier’s logo.

    Standard Requirements for Organic Production

    Federal law (the Organic Foods Production Act or OFPA of 1990) and United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) regulations require that any food bearing the USDA Organic label or any other organic label on the front of the package must have been produced on farms and processed in facilities that adhere to a comprehensive set of federal standards designed to promote sustainability and minimize synthetic inputs in farming and food production. The USDA Organic standards promote soil fertility through natural methods.

    USDA organic standards technically prohibit synthetic materials including synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, artificial growth hormones, antibiotics, sewage sludge, genetically engineered crops, irradiation, and artificial processing aids and food additives. Most of these practices are followed rigorously however, the list of artificial ingredients approved for use in organic is growing and the 5 year sunset period for these materials is under current threat (and see Inconsistencies section below).

    "100% Organic"
    Foods can carry the "100% Organic" label if all ingredients are certified organic and were not processed with any synthetic materials.

    "Organic"
    At least 95% of the ingredients in a processed food labeled "organic" must be grown on a certified organic farm. Up to 5% of the product can consist of non-organic agricultural materials or artificial ingredients that have been approved for a 5-year period. These materials are supposed to be approved only when they are deemed essential to organic production, compatible with the principles of organic agriculture, and raise no concerns regarding their impact on human health and the environment.

    "Made With Organic"
    Made with Organic [Ingredients]: If a product makes the “Made with Organic [specified ingredients] claim, it means that at least 70% of the ingredients are certified organic. The remaining 30% of ingredients can come from conventional farms, but cannot be synthetic food additives that are not approved for use in organic foods. The 30% conventional ingredients can be produced with synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, antibiotics, artificial growth hormones, chemical processing aids and other inputs that are prohibited on organic farms and processing facilities. The 30% conventional ingredients cannot, however, be genetically engineered, produced with sewage sludge, or irradiated.
     
    CONSUMERS UNION EVALUATION:
    How meaningful is the label?

    100% ORGANIC: Highly Meaningful. All ingredients are certified organic and were not processed with any synthetic materials.

    ORGANIC: Meaningful. The standards are meaningful for promoting sustainable agriculture practices and eliminating toxic synthetic pesticides, fertilizers and other synthetic inputs. Given the concerns with standards and oversight over the last few years, CR no longer rates "organic" as highly meaningful but meaningful.

    The standards only address animal welfare in minimal ways, and do not address fair trade practices or conditions for farmworkers ("fair trade") or proximity of production to point of sale ("local").

    "MADE WITH ORGANIC [SPECIFIED INGREDIENTS]": Somewhat meaningful. A product with the “made with organic” label contains at least 70% agricultural ingredients that were produced in accordance with the organic standards, which promote sustainable agriculture practices and eliminating toxic synthetic pesticides, fertilizers and other synthetic inputs. The remaining 30% non-organic ingredients can be produced with the use of synthetic inputs (e.g., crops with synthetic pesticides and synthetic fertilizers), drugs (e.g., meat with antibiotics and artificial growth hormones) and chemical processing aids (e.g., synthetic solvents for oil extraction). The remaining 30% cannot be genetically engineered, irradiated, or produced with sewage sludge, and artificial ingredients that are prohibited in “organic” foods are also prohibited in “made with organic” foods. The “made with organic” label is therefore less meaningful than the “organic” label, but still meaningful.

    The USDA Organic program has a meaningful framework for accountability. In setting and improving the federal organic standards, there is a transparent rulemaking process that includes public comment. In enforcing the standards, any citizen can file a complaint with the USDA and request an investigation.

    Is the label verified?

    Yes.

    Farms and food processing facilities are inspected by a third-party certification agency. Inspections are not conducted by the USDA; rather, the USDA accredits certifying agencies to certify to the USDA organic standards.

    Organic standards require annual inspections of farms and processing facilities, and random inspections are possible. Farmers and food processors are also required to submit an updated organic production or handling system plan to the certifying agency annually.

    The standards also require random testing for pesticide residues or environmental contaminants. [A page 77 yellow and green] Certifying agencies are required to test samples from at least 5% of the operations it certifies on an annual basis.

    Is the meaning of the label consistent?

    No.

    Products with the USDA Organic seal: All products with the USDA Organic seal must meet all the requirements in the standards.

    While organic foods are not required to display the USDA Organic seal, they must identify the certifying agency on the package if they use the "organic" claim on the front of the package.

    Recent Inconsistencies Unresolved

    Inconsistencies for poultry and eggs: The Organic Foods Production Act of 1990 and the USDA regulations explicitly prohibit continuous total confinement of organic animals, and require that year-round access to the outdoors be granted. However, the USDA has failed to enforce this standard for poultry, and continues to allow a number of industrial-scale producers who have built covered porches as "outdoor access," inaccessible to the majority of the birds, to label their poultry products "organic."

    Inconsistencies for personal care and cosmetics: Personal care products can display the USDA Organic seal if they meet all the requirements in the federal organic regulations for food. However, unlike foods, non-food products can claim to be "organic" without being certified to the USDA organic standards, without facing enforcement action from the USDA. (Insert link to Organic personal care product label records) For non-food products, consumers should look specifically for the USDA Organic seal.

    Inconsistencies for antibiotic use: There is a legal allowance for use of antibiotics in poultry hatcheries, where antibiotics can be administered in the egg and on the first day of the chicks' life.

    Inconsistencies for artificial ingredient approval: While artificial ingredients were supposed to be approved for a five-year period and then "sunset," there have been a number of cases where these ingredients have been relisted or their use extended well beyond five years, even when human or environmental concerns have been raised.

    Recent Inconsistencies Resolved

    Access to pasture for ruminants: For ruminants (dairy cows, beef cattle, bison, goats, sheep), the standards were revised in 2010 to clarify that the animals must graze on pasture during the grazing season.

    Antibiotic use in apple and pear production: When the organic standards were first developed, antibiotics were prohibited except in day-old poultry chicks and apple and pear orchards. The NOSB voted in 2013 and 2014 to prohibit the use of the antibiotics tetracycline and streptomycin in organic orchards. This prohibition will take effect in October 2014.

    Organic labeling of fish: There are no organic standards for fish or other seafood at this time. Even if raised to international organic standards, fish should not be labeled as "organic" when sold in the U.S.

    Are the label standards publicly available?

    Yes.

    Is information about the organization publicly available?

    Yes.

    The organic standards are federal regulations of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). The USDA is a federal executive department. Information about the department's leadership and financial information is publicly available at www.usda.gov.

    Is the organization free from conflict of interest?

    Yes.

    Standards development: Yes. Officials at the United States Department of Agriculture involved in writing and updating the organic standards are subject to the government’s conflict of interest rules. [B yellow]

    Members of the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB), a civilian, multi-stakeholder group advises the USDA on organic standards but do not have final decision making authority and are prohibited from voting on matters in which they have a financial interest.

    Verification: Yes. The organic standards require that accredited certifying agencies prevent conflicts of interest in several ways, including not certifying an operation if the certifying agent has a financial interest in the operation.

    Was the label developed with broad public and industry input?

    Yes.*

    Standards development: The organic standards are federal regulations, which are required by law to be shared with the public and opened for public comment before they are finalized and adopted. Before the organic standards were adopted in 2002, the public had multiple opportunities for public comment. The final standards addressed many of the concerns that had been raised by public comment.

    Standards updates: Updates to the standards are typically reviewed and recommended by the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB), a 15-member expert citizen panel that meets biannually to vote on recommendations. These meetings are open to the public, and citizens have the opportunity to comment both in writing before the meeting and in person during the meeting. The NOSB sends its recommendations to the National Organic Program of the United States Department of Agriculture, which again shares a draft of any proposed changes to the organic standards with the public, and accepts written public comments.

    *There have been instances where the USDA has initiated policy changes (such as materials review) which have not gone through public notice and rulemaking--which have been opposed by several groups including CR.
     
    PROGRAM NAME:
    New Hampshire Dept of Agriculture, Market, & Foods Organic Program
     
    ORGANIZATION:
    New Hampshire Department of Agriculture Markets and Food (NHDAMF)
    www.nh.gov/agric/index.htm
     
    LABEL STANDARDS:
    National Organic Program
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