Organic Labeling: USDA Stickers

I used to work at Sprout’s Farmers Market. Unfortunately, although expanding, these stores have not reached Virginia. However, it was in their 5 year plan as of July 2015. Sprout’s Farmers Market as a company prided itself in being “organic” and “sustainable”. Yet, in reality the staff coined the phrase “Welcome to Sprout’s – Where your food may or may not be organic!”. In this job, staff had to learn about Organic Labeling to be able to help customers who didn’t understand it. What I’ve found is that not many people truly do understand it at all – wether self-proclaimed health nuts or sustainable shoppers . That’s why today I am going to go over it. One of the lowest forms of Organic labeling is “Made with Organic Products”. You can usually find this in the ingredient labels as it is not usually something that companies boast about. This means that in all of the ingredients used, only the items labeled as such are actually organic. Usually about 70-94% of this product is actually organic. These products often do not bear the USDA symbol.  The next level up in organic labeling is the term “organic”. Usually this is listed in the name like “organic crackers” or “organic watermelons”. These products are allowed to use the USDA label. However, not even this product is entirely organic. Usually “organic” products have 95-99% organic ingredients. The only way to know you are eating 100% organic food is if it says it on the front. This is the highest level or organic labeling. However, this type of food may use the USDA symbol just like “organic watermelons” may use the symbol only being 95% organic. Or on the contrary, just because the food is organic does not mean that the company must label it as such. Further, the USDA sticker has enough corruption in distributing the labels that even the symbol is under scrutiny. At the end of the day, what is important is that you should know what is going into you body. Labels can’t always do that for you. I think in this day and age, it is truly important to do you homework and know what the labels actually mean.

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2 comments

  1. megvarde · April 24, 2016

    It’s definitely important for people to know what their eating, especially if a person has a dietary restriction. In my environmental toxicology class, we were given a question where Norwegian Fish Oil Capsules said that they were free of toxins, such as mercury, lead, PCBs and cadmium, but we knew that because of the elemental properties, the capsules were really not toxin free. We found out that companies try to remove as much of the toxins as possible, but it is not easy because it requires processes that take a long time and require expensive equipment.

    Labeling is also deceiving because sometimes companies just want you to buy their products, so they try to get away with whatever advertising they can.

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  2. andrewwingfield · May 5, 2016

    Good topic. Another dimension of this is that becoming certified organic through USDA is costly and time consuming, so some organic farms, especially small ones, don’t get certified. When possible, it’s great to get to know the farmers producing your food and visit their farms whenever possible to see how they grow.

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