Every year, more and more people are becoming increasingly concerned about the quality and safety of the food they eat.
In response, many are choosing organic products, which are grown and processed without synthetic pesticides, fertilizers, and other chemicals.
However, there is some confusion in the marketplace regarding what exactly “organic” means, and whether or not we can trust the labels on our food.
What is Organic Food?
Organic food is food that is produced using methods that are in accordance with the principles of organic agriculture. Organic agriculture is a system that seeks to promote and enhance biodiversity, soil health, and the overall well-being of the environment.
Organic farmers use natural fertilizers, such as compost and manures, and avoid the use of synthetic pesticides, herbicides, and other harmful chemicals.
Organic food is also free from genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and growth hormones.
Why Choose Organic?
There are many reasons why consumers choose organic food. Some of the most common benefits of organic food include:
● Health: Organic food is free from harmful chemicals, making it a safer and healthier option for consumers.
● Environment: Organic farming methods promote soil health and biodiversity, helping to protect the environment.
● Taste: Many people believe that organic food has a better taste than conventionally grown food.
● Animal welfare: Organic farming methods promote the well-being of animals, including those raised for food.
Recent Updates to Organic Regulations
In January 2023, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) released a report updating its regulations for organic products.
The updated regulations strengthen oversight and enforcement of the production, handling, and sale of organic agricultural products, with the goal of protecting the integrity of the organic supply chain and building consumer and industry trust in the USDA organic label.
The updated regulations address a number of topics, including changes that aim to:
● Strengthen organic product traceability and reduce the number of uncertified entities in the supply chain, including importers, brokers, and traders.
● Ensure the labeling of non-retail containers used for shipping or storing organic products.
● Require certifying agents to conduct unannounced inspections and audits to improve the quality of certification activities.
● Clarify how certified operations can submit changes to their organic system plan.
● Establish qualification and training requirements for certifying agent personnel to ensure consistent, high-quality certification activities.
● Establish standards for evaluating and accepting organic regulations from other countries so that imported organic products are in compliance with USDA regulations.
● Clarify the USDA’s enforcement authority against any violations of the organic farming law and establish a process for appeals and resolving disputes.
● Clarify the method for calculating the organic content in multi-ingredient products to ensure consistent application.
● Require certified operations to have better recordkeeping and anti-fraud processes, and require certifying agents to perform traceability audits and share information.
The goal of these updates is to ensure that organic products are produced and sold in a manner that meets the highest standards for quality and safety.
How to Choose Organic Products
As the USDA continues to strengthen its regulations for organic products, consumers like you can also take steps to ensure that they are purchasing authentic organic food.
Here are a few tips to help you choose organic products:
● Look for the USDA organic seal: The USDA organic seal is the most reliable indicator that a product is truly organic. Products that carry the seal must meet strict standards for production, processing, and labeling.
● Read the ingredient list: Make sure to check the ingredient list of a product before purchasing. If a product claims to be organic, it should contain only organic ingredients.
● Know your local farmer: If you have access to a local farmer’s market, consider buying your produce directly from a farmer. This way, you can ask questions about the growing methods used and get a sense of the farmer’s commitment to organic agriculture.
● Choose products from trusted brands: Look for brands that have a good reputation for producing high-quality organic products. Check websites such as Consumer Reports, the Organic Integrity Database, or the Environmental Working Group for ratings and reviews of organic products.