What is the process for organic food authentication? Consumers need to be informed about how foods are certified so that they can be assured that the produce they enjoy is organically grown.
Take a look at your local grocery store. You have probably noticed that many of the fruits and vegetables bear the organically-grown label. The demand for organic fruits, vegetables, poultry and other products has grown over the last decade. For a while, only certain stores carried organic produce. In some regions, farmers' markets were the only source of organic items, but not anymore. More and more of our population want wholesome and healthier foods. This generation is more concerned with their health than any other generation. Consumers are willing to pay more for organic products.
There are many reasons why people are interested in eating organic foods. These include:
- Better health
- Better nutrition
- More flavorful
- Improved food safety
- Benefit to the environment
USDA's National Organic Program
How do you know organic foods are authentic? The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has a system to validate organic food. Under this organic food authentication, consumers can look for the following labels in the stores and see how the product was grown. This helps eliminate organic food fraud.
The classifications include:
- 100 Percent Organic - This means that the food can only contain organic ingredients. There can be no antibiotics, hormones, genetic engineering, radiation or synthetic pesticides or fertilizers in the growth or production of food that carries this label. When items qualify for this certification, the USDA organic logo may be placed on the food. The specific certifying agent's logo is also visible on these products.
- Organic - A product with this label contains 95 percent organic ingredients, with the balance coming from ingredients on the approved National Foods List. Food grown under these conditions can also display the USDA organic logo and/or the certifier's logo.
- Made with Organic Ingredients - If this label is placed on an item it must be made with at least 70 percent organic ingredients. At least three of these ingredients must be listed on the package, and the balance must be on the National List. Food made with organic ingredients may display the certifier's logo; however the USDA organic logo is not permitted.
A New Organic Food Authentication Process
Eliot Coleman believes that farmers must go beyond the USDA's specifications. In his article,Authentic Food - Authentic Farming, he states that the focus on the authenticity of organic foods should include:
- Fruits and vegetables, milk, eggs, poultry and other meat products should be produced within a 50-mile radius of their place of their final sale.
- All foods should be produced by the growers who sell them.
- Grains, beans, and nuts should be produced within a 300-mile radius of their final sale.
- The growers' fields, barns and greenhouses should be open for inspection at any time, so customers can visit these places.
- Soils should be nourished with natural organic matter.
- Every organic farmer must be dedicated to growing and producing the best products he or she can.
These organic farms practice organic food authentication and are dedicated to bringing tasty and nutritional foods to your table.
It is important that consumers know that they can trust the labels on the foods that they buy. Educate yourself about the different labeling practices. This will help you to feel confident that you are getting what you pay for.