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New Organic Labels

Ellen Phillips, Extension Educator – Crop Systems, Countryside Extension Center, 708-352-0109, ephillips@uiuc.edu

In order to label their agricultural products as organic for sale in the United States, organic production and handling operations must be certified to the national standards by USDA-accredited certifying agents by Oct. 21, 2002. Farms and handling operations selling less than $5,000 of organic agricultural products annually are exempt from certification. However, they need to follow the national standards in order to label their products as organic, or be subject to a fine of up to $10,000.

The national organic standards outlines four different options for labeling products based on the percentage of organic ingredients in a product.

  • 100 percent organic
    These products are 100 percent organic ingredients and may use the USDA organic seal.
  • Organic
    Products must contain at least 95 percent organic ingredients by weight, excluding water and salt. These products may use the USDA organic seal.
  • Made with organic
    Products must contain between 70 to 95 percent organic ingredients.
  • Normal label
    Products that contain less than 70 percent organic ingredients can only list the organic items in the ingredient panel.

All products may list the actual percent of organic contents in the informational panel. There are specific rules for the actual dimensions allowed for the display of content information. The UDSA organic seal can only be used on 100 percent organic and organic products, but this is voluntary and not required. The USDA has the responsibility for enforcing these new rules. The USDA is also responsible for overseeing and enforcing the entry of organic food products into the United States. All organic food products brought into and sold in the United States must also meet the new organic standards. Look for these new labels in the coming months.