Some top names in the grocery retailing business, as well as meat and vegetable producers, have been caught and cited for claiming and labeling food as organic.
The reason is simple: Organic foods are more expensive. They often actually cost more to produce, but if you sell something as organic that isn’t, then that additional “cost” goes straight into your pocket.
Sometimes the deception isn’t intentional. Supermarket chains often have to rely on trust when they buy organic items from produce merchants, even stuff they may subsequently package themselves
Plus, there’s often confusion about what qualifies as “organic.” Here’s what the US Department of Agriculture says:
“Organic food is produced by farmers who emphasize the use of renewable resources and the conservation of soil and water to enhance environmental quality for future generations. Organic meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products come from animals that are given no antibiotics or growth hormones. Organic food is produced without using most conventional pesticides; fertilizers made with synthetic ingredients or sewage sludge; bioengineering; or ionizing radiation.
“Before a product can be labeled ‘organic,’ a government-approved certifier inspects the farm where the food is grown to make sure the farmer is following all the rules necessary to meet USDA organic standards. Companies that handle or process organic food before it gets to your local supermarket or restaurant must be certified, too.”
The best way to increase the likelihood of buying and eating genuine organic products (you can never be 100% sure) is to look for the USDA Organic seal — a circle with “USDA” in green on a white background, and “Organic” below in white on a green background.
This signifies a product has at least 95% organic ingredients. With content of more than 70% organic, the label can state only “Made with organic ingredients,” while anything less than this may state “Organic ingredients.” We know of no designation for 100% organic ingredients.
If the logo isn’t there, you can’t be sure the product has organic content.