Food & Beverages | Organics
The United States Department of Agriculture's (USDA) National Organic Program (NOP) is responsible for regulating the domestic production and importation of organic agricultural products. This program is responsible for developing standards for the production of organic agricultural products, determining permitted and prohibited substances for use in organic products and on organic farms, and regulating the use of the term "organic" and the USDA Organic symbol.
To use the USDA Organic symbol or make an "Organic" claim on a label, the final product typically needs to be certified organic. Certification is achieved by hiring a USDA-accredited certifying agent. The certifying agent is verifies compliance entities’ compliance with NOP regulations. Imported organic food and beverages are also subject to scrutiny; the NOP certifies foreign agents, and a foreign equivalency program exists for organic products from a number of countries and the EU.
USDA has set forth requirements for various label claims on products containing agricultural products. A summary of these requirements is provided below.
If you wish to claim that a food or beverage product is "100 percent organic," all its ingredients must be certified organic, including any processing aids. Products that meet this criterion may include the USDA organic seal and/or a "100 percent organic" claim on the label. The product labels must state the name of the certifying agent and identify each organic ingredient in the ingredient list with an asterisk or by labeling it "organic."
If you wish to claim that a food or beverage is "organic," the product must be at least 95% certified organic. All agricultural ingredients must be certified organic (except for certain ingredients on the National List), and non-organic ingredients allowed by the National List can constitute up to 5% of the product (excluding salt and water). Products that meet these criteria may include the USDA organic seal and/or a "organic" claim on the label. The product labels must state the name of the certifying agent and identify each organic ingredient in the ingredient list with an asterisk or by labeling it "organic."
“Made with Organic”
If you wish to claim that a food or beverage is "Made with" an organic ingredient, the product must be 70% certified organic ingredients or more (excluding salt and water). Any additional agricultural product must be produced without excluded methods, and non-agricultural products must be specifically allowed on the National List. Additionally, the label must state the name of the certifying agent. Products that meet these criteria may state up to three ingredients or ingredient categories following the term "made with." These products are prohibited from using the USDA seal or the general phrase "made with organic ingredients." The product labels must state the name of the certifying agent and identify each organic ingredient in the ingredient list with an asterisk or by labeling it "organic."
Less than 70% Organic Ingredients
If you have a certified organic ingredient in your product, but your product is less than 70% certified organic content, the product does not require certification. The product label may list certified organic ingredients as "organic" in the ingredient list and/or the percentage of organic ingredients in the product.
Organic certifiers regularly inspect certified manufacturing and handling operations. Frequently, these inspections reveal violations of NOP regulations. It is also not uncommon for industry players to report competitors to the NOP, which can also turn up certain violations. These violations can lead to enforcement action by the certifier or by the government agents employed by NOP, which can put the operation’s organic certification at stake, and even lead to fines. Navigating an enforcement action takes skill and experience.
The FDAImports’ experienced team can help your company reach the organic market. We can help you identify whether your products require certification, or help you weather an enforcement action. Get Started.