Organic Food Fraud

Organic carrots

With the continual rising sales of natural fruits and vegetables, is there a need to be concerned about organic food fraud?

Organic Sales Growing

The sales of organic products are on the rise today. Although in the past you had to go to select stores to find organic produce, now it seems everyone wants organic. Even local grocery store chains have an organic section. Just because the label says organic, is it?

Defining Organic

Organic is a reference to the way agricultural products, including fiber and food, are grown and processed. Organic foods are either grown or produced on farms where maintaining and replenishing the soil without the use of toxic pesticides and fertilizers is practiced. These foods do not contain artificial ingredients, colorings, or preservatives.

Organic is Good For You

Studies conducted in the United States and Canada show that the nutritional content of organic food is higher than food grown on conventional farms. The health benefits are also better, showing that organically grown food has more vitamins and minerals. People are willing to pay more for fruits and vegetables that have grown in soil that is free from pesticides and chemicals. Cattle and other animals that are raised for food are never injected with hormones and antibiotics.

How Organic Food Fraud is Committed

With the popularity of organic foods it is no wonder some retailers try to sell food as organic when it is not. Farmers can claim the lettuce or tomatoes are organic, thus, commanding a higher price for the food. You may think that you are buying food grown in conditions that are free from pesticides and additives, only to find out that you have been deceived. How can you make sure what you purchase and eat is organic? With the listing below, you can now verify that whatever you buy is certified.

USDA Classifications

In 2000, after a ten year development process, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) determined what the classification of organic would be. In order to qualify as an organic farmer, one must be certified. The USDA's certification system has three levels which 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 productivity 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 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.

Labeled as Natural

The term natural may also be used on labels. Perhaps you have seen it when shopping. According to the U.S. Food Safety and Inspection Service policy, natural can be used when products contain no artificial ingredients and are only minimally processed. This term may be used in combination with the claim certified organic when the conditions of the policy are met. The certifying agent's name should also be placed on the label following the term certified organic.

Be Aware

Now that you know about the labeling and certification, you can be a more informed shopper. You will no longer have to be susceptible to organic food fraud, wondering if what you are buying and serving your family is indeed organic. Read the labels as you shop and keep these tips in mind so you can spot the frauds. If you think your store is selling products that claim to be organic when they are not, inform the manager.

Organic Food Fraud