What are “Organic Foods”?
US organic food sales have experienced consistent growth over the last fifteen years1, and the USDA reports that organic products are now available in nearly 75% of conventional grocery stores nationwide. Although the interest in organic food is soaring, many consumers are still unsure what the term actually means. In this article, we unpack the definition and health benefits of organic food and how to attain organic certification in the USA.
What is Organic Food?
Growers can label and market their products as organic if they adhere to the local organic farming and production standards. These standards differ worldwide, and the USDA governs them in the United States. Organic standards include practices that reduce synthetic material use, protect biodiversity, preserve soil and water quality, and promote ecological balance and resource cycling.
Organic produce may not be genetically modified, contain artificial additives, or grown with toxic pesticides and fertilizers. Organic animal products may not contain antibiotics or hormones and must adhere to the USDA’s livestock living conditions guidelines.
Four Nutritional Benefits of Eating Organic Food
Many consumers choose organic products for personal health reasons, ecological concerns or animal rights advocacy. While numerous environmental factors can make comparing different foods’ nutritional profiles challenging, many studies suggest higher nutrient contents in organic food.
Here are four of the top nutritional benefits researchers have noted in organic food:
- Increased antioxidant and vitamin levels
Studies show that some organic fruits and vegetables contain higher levels of antioxidants and micronutrients, such as vitamin C and zinc, than their non-organic counterparts. Organic plants may produce these protective compounds in the absence of chemical pesticides.
- Healthier fatty acid profiles
A European study found organic milk and meat to contain up to 50% more omega-3 fatty acids than non-organic alternatives. Many studies also suggest that organic meat has a lower saturated fat content.
- Prevents exposure to chemical residue
Farmers do not use chemical pesticides to grow organic produce, which may be harmful to your health over time. Eating organic food prevents the ingestion of toxic chemicals such as cadmium.
- No antibiotics and hormones
Organically reared animals do not ingest antibiotics or hormones that remain in the meat and dairy for human consumption. Eating organic animal products may reduce your risk of exposure to antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
How To Get Your Products USDA Organic Certified
To label your products as organic in the US, you must produce them without prohibited methods and substances, as set out in the National Organic Program (NOP). You will need a NOP-authorized certifying agent to oversee your certification process.
Once you have reviewed and adopted the organic practices relevant to your business, you may submit an application form for organic certification to your certifying agent. Your operation may also be subject to an on-site inspection and report before you can obtain an organic certificate. You will need to conduct an annual review to maintain your certified-organic status.
There are four tiers of organic product labels:
- 100% Organic
- Organic – the product must contain at least 95% organic ingredients
- Made with Organic – the product must contain at least 70% organic ingredients
- Specific Organic ingredient listings (less than 70% organic ingredients)
Using certified-organic flavorings and aromatics can help you produce a processed product that is 100% organic. The recent growth in organic product sales has driven many manufacturers to seek USDA organic certification. Producing organic food and other consumables may help you attract a broader health- and eco-conscious consumer base.
Advanced Biotech supplies a range of certified-organic ingredients for processed foods, beverages, cosmetics, and candles. Advanced Biotech’s certified-organic products are certified by the Oregon Tilth (OTCO) to the USDA Organic Regulations, 7 CFR Part 205. Please contact us for more information.