How Organic do You Want to Be?

March 27, 2007
This simple question can determine how easy or challenging it is to source ingredients.

There are three labeling classifications under the National Organic Program (NOP). The first is "100 percent organic." This means that everything single item on the ingredients list -- colors, guar gum, flavors -- excluding added water and salt, and all materials used to process those ingredients, must be 100 percent certified organic by the USDA.

The second classification is "USDA organic" which requires that 95 percent of the products are certified organic. This leaves a little flex room for minor ingredients such as naturally processed flavors and colors, which may be challenging to find in organic form.

However, the remaining 5 percent still must meet certain guidelines and must not be commercially available in organic form. In fact, as a result of a court ruling, after June 9, all minor nonorganic ingredients used in a "USDA organic" product must be on a national list of approved nonorganic agricultural materials. If processors want to use something not on the list, they will have to submit a petition to the NOP.

The last category is "Made with organic," which means that 70 percent of the ingredients must be organic. This category not only may prove easier to source, but also may allow processors to set a lower price point. However, only the first two categories can proudly wear the "USDA Organic" logo.