Consumer Reports discusses the nature of labeling products as “organic”
So what can you count on when you buy organic? If the product is labeled “100 Percent Organic,” it means that, by law, there are no synthetic ingredients. Also, production processes must meet federal organic standards and must have been independently verified by accredited inspectors.
If the label says simply “Organic,” no less than 95 percent of the ingredients must have been organically produced. And if it’s labeled “Made with Organic Ingredients,” you can be sure that at least 70 percent of its makeup is organic. The remaining ingredients must come from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s approved list.
Labels that specify “natural” or “all natural” do not mean organic. The reason is that no standard definition for these terms exists, except when it’s applied to meat and poultry products, which the USDA defines as not containing any artificial flavoring, colors or synthetic ingredients.
The terms “free-range” or “free-roaming” are similarly meaningless. Stamped on eggs, chicken and other meat, this label suggests that an animal has spent a good portion of its life outdoors. But U.S. government standards are weak. The rule for the label’s use on poultry products, for example, is merely that outdoor access be made available for “an undetermined period each day.”
Labeling seafood “organic” also is misleading, since the USDA has not yet developed organic certification standards.
Another pointless “organic” purchase: cosmetics. Most cosmetics contain a mix of ingredients, and USDA regulations allow shampoos and body lotions to carry an organic label even when water is the primary ingredient. Hydrosol also may be listed as a primary ingredient in organic products, even though it may be primarily water infused with only a small fraction of organic plant material.
It is quite likely that labeling laws regarding claims of “organic” will change sometime in the future, so it is something food and cosmetics manufacturers will want to watch closely.
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