Understanding Organic Labeling: What Consumers Should Know

September 17, 2019

Shopping for groceries is one of those tasks that many of us do on auto-pilot. In fact, many consumers find themselves purchasing the same brands, week after week, without taking the time to read the labels or compare the product to others on the market. While this habit may help you race through the grocery store at top speed, it probably isn’t helping you choose the most nutritious, healthful foods for your family’s weekly meals. Making better food choices can be as easy as learning about organic food labeling and choosing fresh, healthy foods that bear this labeling.

Organic Produce

Changing Times, Changing Trends in Food Labels

Just a few short decades ago, the organic food industry made up only a tiny slice of the market and consumers who wanted to experience the benefits living a healthier lifestyle by consuming organic foods often had trouble locating a source for them. Pressure from this growing segment of consumers helped convince the food industry to offer consumers more access and a wider variety of organically grown foods.

As demand grew and access improved, consumers often found shopping for organic foods confusing, due to the lack of a standardized labeling system. It wasn’t until the implementation of the National Organic Program through the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), however, that a standardized food labeling program was created allowing consumers to instantly recognize organic foods in the market.

Organics in Growth Mode

Now, more consumers than ever before are demanding access to healthful, organically grown foods. In fact, a 2014 industry survey sponsored by the Organic Trade Association (OTA) showed that 81 percent of consumers reported purchasing organic foods, at least occasionally. As this demand has grown, the food supply chain has responded and now most food markets, grocery stores and chain stores that sell food have a well-stocked organic foods section.

Recognizing Organic Foods

The USDA’s National Organic Program has created a series of easily recognizable seals and standardized label wording that consumers can watch for when shopping. The seals and wording may be attached to each item, or be prominently displayed on signage over bulk produce displays, such as large quantities of fruits or vegetables.

  • 100% Organic – This wording will appear on those items or products that meet the standards of organically grown or produced items. This wording can appear with or without the round USDA Organic Seal. The seal may be green and brown, black and white or appear as a simple black outline on transparent packaging, such as clear plastic film.
  • Organic – This wording will appear on those items or products that meet the specifications to be considered at least 95% organic. The organic seal, as described above, may or may not be included on the packaging or market displays.
  • Made with Organic Ingredients – This wording is displayed on packaging or signage for products and items that are at least 70% organic. The seal is not used on this classification of organic labeling.
  • Less than 70% Organic Ingredients – This wording is used when the item or product has some portion of organic materials included in the ingredient list and the seal is not used.

Taking a few minutes to learn about organic labeling will help you learn to recognize and choose the healthiest, freshest and most organic foods whenever you shop!

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