Organic labels, decoded

Since federal organic standards were implemented in 2002, the National Organic Program has certified that food labeled with the circular green USDA Organic seal is grown or raised without toxic and synthetic pesticides or fertilizers (including nasty things like sewage sludge), antibiotics or growth hormones, genetically modified organisms, or irradiation. Accredited certifiers determine whether producers meet USDA requirements. To learn the nuances of organic food labels, visit

100 percent Organic
Made with all organic ingredients, these products may use the USDA Organic seal.
The fine print: May include added water and salt.

Products must contain at least 95 percent organic ingredients, and may use the USDA Organic seal.
The fine print: Organic meat and poultry must come from animals fed 100 percent organic feed, not given growth hormones or antibiotics, and not routinely confined. The National Organic Program, however, does not police animal treatment.

Made with Organic Ingredients
Products made with at least 70 percent organic ingredients may list organic ingredients on their labels but may not use the USDA Organic seal.
The fine print: Products with less than 70 percent organic ingredients can use the word organic in ingredient lists only.

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