Have you ever wondered about food labeling? Is Organic the same as Non-GMO? What about Fair Trade and All Natural? Today’s post defines the labels.
Much love and happiness,
Since the early 90’s the USDA has set strict limits for the term Organic. Food certified and labeled organic must meet federal regulatory standards regardless of origin (so anything imported must meet the same standards as food grown in the United States). Produce grown organically must be grown on soil certified to be organic for at least three years prior to harvest. Produce may not be treated with most “synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, growth hormones, sewage sludge, [or] irradiation.” Animals raised (and their meat sold) organically must live in natural conditions allowing for grazing and they must be fed 100% organic feed. Antibiotics and hormones are not allowed. Processed food labeled Organic is prohibited from containing artificial preservatives, colors, or flavors and require that their ingredients are organic. Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) are prohibited from food labeled Organic.
- Companies must submit a detailed application, outlining the nature of their operation, the production/handling processes they use, and the products they produce. This is called an Organic Systems Plan, and it enables inspectors and consumers alike to trace organic products from the farm to table.
- Rigorous announced – and unannounced -certification inspections by third-party inspectors to ensure that products bearing the organic label are grown and processed in a manner that you and your family can trust. Certifiers also audit companies’ records (i.e.: of purchases, inputs, ingredients), tracing products from their starting ingredients to their final stages of processing/production.
- All products bearing the organic label must comply with federal, state, FDA, and international food safety requirements.”
A GMO, or genetically modified organism, is a plant, animal, microorganism or other organism whose genetic makeup has been modified in a laboratory using genetic engineering or transgenic technology. This creates combinations of plant, animal, bacterial and virus genes that do not occur in nature or through traditional crossbreeding methods.
Genetic modification is used to make the crop stronger in order to resist pests, disease, and herbicides applied to the crops, which increases production. Soy, corn, canola, potatoes, alfafa, squash, sugar beets, and flax are often genetically modified. Remember that produce labeled Organic cannot be genetically modified.
Foods labeled by the Non-GMO Project Product Verification Program have been confirmed through testing to not be genetically modified, and to not have been mixed or “comingled” with genetically modified foods.
Conventionally grown food may use synthetic pesticides and fertilizers. Herbicides are used to manage weeds. Animals may be given antibiotics and growth hormones to increase production.
Natural and All Natural are not regulated terms. They normally have no meaning and are used for marketing purposes. Legislation has been introduced to better regulate the terms and the companies that use them to market otherwise conventionally grown food items.
Free Range is not a regulated term, there is no standard definition and can be used by any farm or company, except for with poultry (and does not include eggs). Even with poultry, a “Free Range” bird must have access to the outdoors, but that does not mean a pasture.
If the words “pastured” or “pasture-based” appear on an egg carton label along with the American Humane Certified seal, it means that the laying hens were given at least a total of 2.5 acres of pasture per 1,000 hens, which means 108.9 square feet per bird or 10.9 feet by 10 feet…Hens have access to the outdoor area for at least 8 hours per day, weather permitting.
American Grass Fed
The American Grassfed label means that the animals were grass-fed throughout their entire lives (after weaning), with no grain ever. The animals had continuous access to pasture and were not raised in confinement. The label is highly meaningful and verified.
According to Fair Trade Certified’s website, “When you see a product with the Fair Trade Certified™ seal, you can be sure it was made according to rigorous social, environmental, and economic standards.” Fair Trade Certified is a non-profit organization that works worldwide to promote fair working environments and trade models that benefit farmers, workers, consumers and the earth. The program includes 1.6 million farmers and workers worldwide and 1,250 businesses.
Food certified Oregon Tilth is a level above the USDA’s organic certification. Oregon Tilth is the leading nonprofit certifier in the United States. Their mission includes making “our food system and agriculture biologically sound and socially equitable.”