USDA Relents on Scope of National Organic Program: 'Organic Agricultural Product Content' Qualifies Products for Organic Labeling

(Silver Spring, MD) -- The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) has issued a memorandum to all accredited certifying agents for the National Organic Program (NOP) that is “intended to clarify” inquiries regarding the NOP’s thinking on “products that meet the NOP program standards for organic products based on content, irrespective of the end use of the product” (emphasis added). Although dietary supplements are not specifically mentioned, the memo appears to bring to an end five years of contradictory information about organic labeling for supplements that contain organic herbs, and apparently also extends to other goods, such as cosmetics, body care products, and pet foods.

The memorandum informed certifiers that “[t]here are agricultural products, including personal care products, that, by virtue of their organic agricultural product content, may meet the NOP standards and be labeled as ‘100 percent organic,’ ‘organic,’ or ‘made with organic’ pursuant to the NOP regulations,” and that “products that may be labeled ‘100 percent organic’ or ‘organic’ may also carry the USDA organic seal” .

This breakthrough in recognizing that the scope of the NOP should include all consumer products that use organic agricultural ingredients came just one week after AHPA President Michael McGuffin appeared before the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) to request that NOP correct its history of contradicting itself on this issue. His testimony included a display of various products, including a bottle of organic peppermint spirits, labeled as a supplement, and another of organic peppermint flavor, labeled as a food. McGuffin informed NOSB that the fact that only the food product could be labeled as organic was “clearly contrary to the statutory intention” of the organic law passed in 1990.

“USDA appears to have gotten the message that the Organic Foods Production Act should be implemented broadly,” commented McGuffin when informed of yesterday’s memo. “Marketers of organic herbal supplements and growers of herbs for these products will now be able to gain both the environmental and the financial benefits of their organic commitments.”

USDA’s action appears to be at least partly in response to a lawsuit brought in June by Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps and the Organic Consumers Association to challenge the exclusion of personal care products from the NOP.

“Let’s give credit where credit is due,” added McGuffin. “David Bronner and the OCA deserve our sincere thanks for pushing USDA so actively. Though AHPA was right on the supplement issue, and had explicitly endorsed a position to make the organic law applicable to other products, including cosmetics and personal care products, their lawsuit greatly accelerated this resolution for all of us.”

A copy of the yesterday’s memorandum from the AMS has been posted on the AHPA website:


The American Herbal Products Association (AHPA) is the national trade association and voice of the herbal supplement industry, the only trade association devoted solely to herbal issues. AHPA is the recognized leader in representing the responsible center of the botanical trade, and is comprised of the finest growers, processors, manufacturers and marketers of herbal products. AHPA’s mission is to promote the responsible commerce of herbal products. AHPA committees generate self-regulations to ensure the highest level of responsibility with respect to the way herbs are manufactured, labeled and sold. Website:

Karen Robin, Director of Communications
Telephone: (301) 588-1171, x-107
Email: [email protected]

Hide comments


  • Allowed HTML tags: <em> <strong> <blockquote> <br> <p>

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.