| National Organic Program Q&A
Apr 9, 2002
What does the "USDA
Organic" seal mean?
The "USDA Organic" seal means that at least 95 percent of a product's
content has been grown, handled, and/or produced without the use
of synthetic pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, fertilizers,
hormones, antibiotics, genetically modified ingredients or irradiation.
Can any organic product carry the "USDA
Only products that are made of at least 95 percent certified
organic content may be labeled with the "USDA Organic" seal.
Products that are made of 70 to 95 percent certified organic
content may be labeled "made with organic ingredients" and may
list up to three organic ingredients, but these cannot carry the
"USDA Organic" seal. Likewise, products that have less than 70
percent certified organic content are restricted to using
the term "organic" only on the ingredient information panel and
cannot carry the "USDA Organic" seal.
What is the origin of the "USDA Organic"
The seal is defined by The National Organic Program (NOP), an
amendment to the Organic Foods Production Act adopted in December
2000. The NOP details national organic production, handling and
How was the organic industry regulated
before the NOP?
Organic food and beverage products have been, and will continue
to be, regulated by the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) and state
health departments as are all packaged foods. Prior to the National
Organic Program, standards of identity for "organic" varied from
state to state and there was no federal standard. Products were
certified as organic by either a state agency or an independent
third party, each operating according to its own set of standards.
As the NOP is fully implemented on October 21, 2002, the USDA
will regulate organic food production and labeling and the FDA
will continue to regulate all packaged organic food and beverages
for food safety and health claims.
Before the "USDA Organic" seal was introduced,
how were organic products labeled?
Before the NOP and the "USDA Organic" seal, there were no federal
production or labeling standards for certifying organic products,
however, organic foods and beverages were regulated by the Food
& Drug Administration and state health departments. As of October
21, 2002, national standards of identity will be fully implemented
for "organic," and the word "organic" will be prohibited from
use on any product label that does not meet NOP standards. Organic
foods and beverages will continue to be regulated by FDA and states
What role did the organic industry play
in the development of the federal government regulation?
The organic industry has worked side by side with the USDA to
develop the federal regulations.
How will the introduction of the "USDA
Organic" seal impact the organic food industry?
With an average annual growth rate of 24% throughout the last
decade, U.S. retail sales of organic food are estimated to grow
from $8 billion in 2000 to $20 billion in 2005. The "USDA Organic"
seal will support continued industry growth by protecting the
integrity of organic food and providing assurance to consumers
that a product labeled as organic has fulfilled strict criteria
in its production no matter where it is grown, produced or sold.
Is there any research that suggests how
consumers may react to the "USDA Organic" seal?
According to a recent consumer survey commissioned by Walnut Acres,
68 percent of Americans say the new "USDA Organic" seal will make
them more confident about organic food products. In addition,
three in four (72%) say that, all other things being equal, they
would be more likely to purchase a food product that carries the
"USDA Organic" seal over one that does not.
Where can I obtain more information about
Visit the USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service at www.ams.usda.gov/nop,
or the Organic Trade Association at www.ota.com.
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...