Frequently Asked Questions About Organic Labels
Is the USDA Organic Seal the Same as an Organic Label?
The USDA Organic Seal, which is given to products that are certified 100% organic, is not the same as the USDA organic label.
The organic label is typically used when a product has some organic ingredients but is not USDA certified.
What Products Can Wear the USDA Organic Seal?
Any product certified to USDA organic standards is allowed to wear the USDA Organic Seal, including food, clothing, and personal care products.
The National Organic Program (NOP) has official labeling requirements, but these only apply to agricultural ingredients. So while a food processor may face trouble for mislabeling cereal, an essential oil manufacturer would not because the USDA certifies but does not regulate personal care items such as essential oils.
What Are the Requirements for a 100% Organic Label?
In order to label a product "100% Organic," it must have the following characteristics:
- Contain 100% USDA certified organic ingredients
- Any processing aids used during production must be 100% USDA certified organic
Example: 100% organic apple juice.
What Are the Requirements for an Organic Label?
In order to label a product as "Organic," the product must have the following characteristics:
- Contain at least 95% organic ingredients
- The remaining 5% must be allowed ingredients
- Any agricultural ingredients in the product must be organic unless unavailable
Example: Organic apple juice.
What Does "Made With Organic Ingredients" Mean?
If you label a product as "Made With Organic Ingredients," it cannot wear the USDA Organic Seal and must have the following characteristics:
- Contain at least 70% organic ingredients
- The remaining 30% must be allowed ingredients or non-organic agricultural ingredients
Example: Fruit Punch made with apples, organic grapes, and strawberries.
What About Products With Less Than 70% Organic Ingredients?
Food products that contain less than 70% organic ingredients do not qualify for organic labeling. Such products can contain any level of organic ingredients and there are zero restrictions on other ingredients, although they can list organic ingredients in the ingredients section.
For example, "Organic oats, milk, eggs, flour, and organic raisins" is allowed but "Made With" organic ingredients is not.
Can I Use the USDA Organic Seal on Non-Certified Products?
Individuals or companies who misuse the USDA Organic Seal or mislabel a product as "Organic" can get into costly trouble.
If a product carries the USDA Organic Seal, or if a food product even states "Organic" on the packaging, it must be certified organic.
If the product is not certified organic, individuals or businesses may be fined up to $17,952 per violation.
Where Can I Download the USDA Organic Seal?
If your product is certified organic and is allowed to carry the USDA Organic Seal, you can download copies of the USDA Organic Seal at the USDA website. Four color seals and black-and-white seals are available.
Can I Create My Own Version of the USDA Organic Seal?
You cannot change the color or design of the USDA Organic Seal. Changing the seal in any way is considered non-compliance according to National Organic Program policy (section 205.311).
Do I Have to Use an Organic Label?
If a product is certified USDA organic, labeling is optional. But plenty of good reasons exist to choose organic labeling. Organic labels aren't just important for growers and handlers, but also for consumers.
The right organic label helps consumers understand the type of organic product they're purchasing and shows your product's commitment to healthy people and a healthy planet.