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Published: Tuesday, 8/12/2003

What is `organic'?

The U.S. Department of Agriculture defines organic food as food grown and processed without using most conventional pesticides; without fertilizers made with synthetic ingredients or sewage sludge; without biotechnology, and without ionizing radiation.

The U.S. Surgeon General, the American Dietetic Association, and the American Heart Association agree that the fruits and vegetables are safe regardless of whether organic or conventional farming methods are used.

The final rule for organic food as implemented on food labels was announced Oct. 21, 2002.

The guidelines are:

  • 100 percent organic: All of a product's ingredients or contents are organic. The USDA Organic Seal can be displayed on these products.

  • Organic: The product must consist of at least 95 percent organically produced ingredients. The USDA Organic Seal can be displayed.

  • Made with Organic Ingredients: The product must contain at least 70 percent organic ingredients and can display the phrase “Made with Organic” followed by a listing of up to three specific ingredients.

  • Products containing less than 70 percent organic ingredients: These products cannot use the term organic anywhere on the display label. However, specific organic ingredients can be listed on the information panel.

    Source: Food Insight from International Food Information Council Foundation

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