| The New "USDA Organic" Seal
Apr 9, 2002
Beginning October 21, 2002, foods and beverages that are certified
organic may carry an official seal from the United States
Department of Agriculture. The "USDA Organic" seal is the result
of important legislation that provides, for the first time, a
uniform national standard for organic products.
Industry leaders and consumer watchdogs agree this is good news
for American shoppers, as it will clear up any confusion about
what foods and beverages are - and are not - "certified organic."
In addition, for the first time, farmers, processors, producers
and marketers of organic products will now follow a single set
of federal guidelines, which will guarantee consistency in labeling
in every state of the country.
All Walnut Acres foods and beverages will carry the "USDA Organic"
seal. The entire family of Walnut Acres' certified organic
soups, salsas, pasta sauces and juices are in compliance with
the new USDA standards.
What Does the "USDA Organic" Seal Mean?
According to the legislation, a product may display the new "USDA
Organic" seal if at least 95 percent of its content has been grown,
handled and/or produced without the use of synthetic pesticides,
herbicides, fungicides, fertilizers, hormones, antibiotics, genetically
modified ingredients or irradiation.
Products that have between 70 and 95 percent organic content are
prohibited from carrying the "USDA Organic" seal but may use the
phrase "Made With Organic Ingredients" and list up to three organic
ingredients on the label. Products with less than 70 percent organic
ingredients cannot carry the seal and are restricted to using
the term "organic" only on the ingredient information panel.
Consumers who purchase a product that carries the "USDA Organic"
seal can be assured that they are supporting agriculture that
optimizes the health and productivity of soil life, plants, animals
and people, all of which are interdependent.
The History of Organics in the United
Production and marketing of food products identified as organic
began more than five decades ago. The country's first organic
food company, Walnut Acres, was founded in 1946. Inspired by the
teachings of Sir Albert Howard, who is widely considered to be
the "father of organic farming," Walnut Acres began to produce
organic foods and beverages. It was Sir Albert who first questioned
the practices of conventional agriculture and its increasing reliance
on synthetic pesticides and monocropping. Sir Albert turned to
nature for solutions to pest control and other challenges faced
by farmers. Applying Sir Albert's findings, a new breed of farmers
began adopting and innovating organic farming practices.
As the organic movement gained momentum, variations in organic
farming and food production took shape from state to state. Farmers
in California followed a slightly different set of practices and
rules for organic farming than the farmers in North Carolina,
causing inconsistencies among what was and was not considered
"organic." Ultimately organic certification standards were developed
by 17 individual states and more than 30 independent private groups
which provided some regulation for the industry. However, as more
organic farmers and food companies developed interstate commerce
and national marketing, the lack of national consistency among
the standards of identity of "organic" created confusion and other
In the late 1980s, the organic industry organized to actively
call for uniform national standards that would eliminate the multiple
varying standards. Organic farmers, leading organic food companies
- including Walnut Acres - and the organic industry trade association
lobbied Congress to establish federal organic standards that would
In 1990, the Organic Foods Production Act was passed and mandated
that the USDA establish a National Organic Standard Board to develop
national organic standards and establish a nationwide organic
In 1997, the USDA published a proposed rule detailing organic
production, handling and labeling requirements as an amendment
to the Organic Foods Production Act. The rule was finalized in
December 2000 as the National Organic Program (NOP) and requires
that all agricultural products sold, labeled or represented as
organic to be in full compliance by October 21, 2002. The NOP
mandates the conditions under which the "USDA Organic" seal may
be used on products with more than 95 percent certified organic
After October 21, 2002, organic products will continue to be certified
by state organizations and independent groups, but now all certifying
entities will be operating from the same set of standards. The
final rule incorporates many of the most rigorous standards organic
producers and handlers have been using, and it is flexible enough
to accommodate the wide range of operations and products grown
and produced in every region of the United States.
For more information on the NOP, visit the USDA's Agricultural
Marketing Service at www.ams.usda.gov/nop, the Organic Trade Association
About Walnut Acres
Established in 1946, Walnut Acres is America's original organic
food company and is owned by New Rochelle, N.Y.-based Acirca,
Inc., makers of fine certified organic foods and beverages.
The name Acirca is inspired by the phrase "a circle of life" and
reflects the company's commitment to the development of products
that help consumers obtain better health and are good for the
environment. Acirca is a privately held company owned collectively
by company employees and independent investors. The company strives
to bring convenience in packaged certified organic foods
to health-conscious consumers wherever they shop.
Michael Neuwirth, Acirca (914) 380-8020
||Did Walnut Acres used to make other
||Yes. However, to focus on producing
only certified organic foods and beverages and to make them
more widely available, the...