|1. The meaning of the organic labels is different for food than for cosmetics or personal care products.|
WHAT THIS LABEL MEANS:
Certified Organic, Inc. has been certifying products as organic since 2002 and is accredited as an organic certifier by the USDA. The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has developed a fixed set of standards that must be met by anyone using the “organic” label in the United States.
Standard Requirements for Organic Production
Fruits, Vegetables, Meat and Poultry
Most synthetic (and petroleum derived) pesticides and fertilizers, and all antibiotics, genetic engineering, irradiation and sewage sludge, are prohibited for use in organic production. In addition, organic animals must eat 100% organic feed that does not contain any of the animal byproducts or growth hormones. Organic animals also must have access to the outdoors. Synthetic materials can only be used in organic production if they are reviewed for appropriateness by the National Organic Standards Board and placed on the National List. All materials on the National List will be retired after five years unless otherwise reviewed again and re-listed.
Originally, the USDA National Organic Program required that all substances used in organic production meet National Organic Program standards. The USDA has since narrowed the definition of substance to ingredient used in organic production. This means that a substance used in processing that may leave residues but that is not actually an ingredient in the final product does not have to have USDA approval.
Lingering Questions about Chickens and the Outdoor Access Requirements
The Organic Food Production Act of 1990 and the National Organic Program explicitly require that organic meat and meat products must come from animals that have been raised outdoors. However, the USDA has drawn a distinction between chickens and other animals. While ruminant animals are guaranteed continuous access to the outdoors without confinement, chickens are not guaranteed continuous outdoor access and can be confined.
Cosmetics and Other Products
On October 21, 2002 the USDA announced that the National Organic Program scope would extend beyond food to many other types of products. These products include pet foods, fabrics, cosmetics, body care products, over-the-counter medications, dietary supplements, fertilizers, soil amendments; and products from greenhouse, apiculture, and hydroponic systems. Organic labels on these products are not backed up by rigorous standards developed by the National Organic Standards Board in the same way the organic food product labels are.
Tiers of Organic Labeling
One may see one of three labels on an organic product, and they mean different things. The three labels are:
According to USDA’s national organic standard, products labeled as “100 percent organic” can only contain organically produced ingredients. Products containing 100% organic ingredients can display the USDA Organic logo and / or the certifying agent’s logo.
To be labeled as “organic,” 95% of the ingredients must be organically grown and the remaining 5% must come from non-organic ingredients that have been approved on the National List. These products can also display the USDA organic logo and/or the certifier’s logo.
Made With Organic Ingredients
Food products labeled as “made with organic ingredients” must be made with at least 70% organic ingredients, three of which must be listed on the back of the package and again, the remaining 30% of the non-organic ingredients must approved on the National List. These products may display the certifier’s logo but not the USDA organic logo.
The percentage level of organic ingredients determines what tier of organic labeling should be used. In food products, water and salt are not included calculation of the percentage of organic ingredients. However, for personal care products, water can be included in the organic weight of a product. Since water is usually one of the first three ingredients listed on personal care products, it is easier for personal care products to be organic than food.
Enforcement of these standards appears to be less rigorous on personal care products than on food products. According to the National Organic Program, any product that contains less than 70% organic ingredients is prohibited from being labeled organic. However CU has found the term “56% organic” on the front of organically labeled shampoo.
CONSUMERS UNION EVALUATION:
How meaningful is the label?
The Certified Organic, Inc. and USDA organic labels are considered to be highly meaningful labels on food. The standards set for food production are rigorous and add considerable value to conventional food production. While the organic label on poultry products, including eggs, is meaningful, USDA does not adequately define outdoor access for poultry. As a result, some poultry labeled as organic may not have true outdoor access. For example, USDA considers future plans to provide outdoor access as adequate in meeting the standard. Consumers should contact the certifier or producer to find out if and how outdoor access was provided. The Certified Organic, Inc. and USDA organic labels are not meaningful on cosmetics and personal care products. While some agricultural based ingredients in these products may be certified as organic, many personal care products claiming to be organic also contain synthetic and petroleum derived ingredients that have not been reviewed by the National Organic Standards Board. While food labeled as organic must contain at least 70% organic ingredients (not including water), CU has noted many personal care products labeled as, for example, “56% organic.”
Is the label verified?
Yes. Certified Organic, Inc. verifies that farmers and producers meet the standards set by the USDA National Organic Program. USDA does not verify products but does accredit all organic certifiers to be able to use the Certified Organic, Inc. or USDA organic labels.
Is the meaning of the label consistent?
No. The meaning of the Certified Organic, Inc. or USDA organic labels is different for food than for cosmetics and personal care products.
Are the label standards publicly available?
Yes. The standards for the USDA National Organic Program are publicly available.
Is information about the organization publicly available?
Yes. Certified Organic, Inc. makes information about funding and board of directors publicly available.
Is the organization free from conflict of interest?
Yes. USDA has explicitly prohibited organic certifiers from having conflict of interest.
Was the label developed with broad public and industry input?
Yes. The National Organic Program was developed with public and industry input and significant additions or changes to the program are required to have public comment.
ORGANIZATION NAME AND CONTACT INFO:
Certified Organic, Inc.
500 First St.
Keosauqua, IA 52565
Email Contact: [email protected]
Certified Organic, Inc. has been certifying organic products since 2002. The USDA National Organic Program was implemented October 21, 2002. Certified Organic’s organic program must certify that food products follow USDA’s National Organic Program.
Certified Organic’s supports its organic program from certification fees.
The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) accredits all organic certifiers. Changes made to the National Organic Program and its standards are made through the USDA. Changes to the Certified Organic, Inc. organic program (not including standards) receive final approval from the Board of Directors.
BOARD OF DIRECTORS:
Nanette Rambo – Owner and Agent of COI
David Fischer – Maharishi University of Management Science Department