The Organic Seal

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The organic seal was introduced in 2002 and assures that products labeled organic meet stringent standards established by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).  Under the USDA regulations, in order for a product to be labeled "USDA certified organic" and gain the organic seal it must contain a minimum of 95% organic ingredients.

The system for verifying and regulating certified organic products is designed to protect consumers, farmers, manufactures, and the environment.

The USDA certification process is very arduous:

  • Growers seeking certification have to study the organic standards, and farm facilities and production methods must comply with the standards.
  • Extensive paperwork must document farm history and current practices and usually must include results of soil and water tests.
  • A written annual production plan must be submitted, detailing every aspect of farming: seed sources, field and crop locations, fertilization and pest control activities, harvest methods, storage locations, etc.

Annual on-farm inspections are a part of the certification process, with a physical tour, examination of records, and an oral interview.  Also, short-notice or surprise inspections can be made, and specific tests (e.g., soil, water, plant tissue) may be requested.  For first-time farm USDA certification, the soil must meet basic requirements of being free from use of prohibited substances (synthetic chemicals, etc.) for three years.

Certification for food producers is similar.  Every aspect of the production, including ingredients, transport, processing, and packaging are examined and need to adhere to strict standards.

The USDA certified organic seal is earned with a lot of effort.  The certifiers take their job very seriously, and for that, they have gained the public's trust.