Know What You're Eating: A guide to understanding organic food labels
Organic vs Natural - What’s the difference?
Americans just can’t get enough of organic food! In 2017, total organic product sales reached nearly $50 billion and organic has averaged double-digit growth over the last five years (Source: Organic Trade Association. 2018 Organic Industry Survey). Of course, that’s no surprise to fans of YumEarth, who have made us the #1 organic candy company in the United States.
And yet, despite all that growth, there’s still some confusion! “Natural”. “Healthy”. “Local”. “Organic”. A lot of people – some even with the best of intentions – are using these terms as if they are interchangeable, which can get really confusing. YumEarth goes to great lengths to earn that USDA seal and our packages wear it proudly. So, let’s take a minute to try to nail down a little clarity and define organic a bit.
Let’s start at the beginning – what are the benefits of organic food?
Understandably, different kinds of foods need to be certified differently because of the different ways they’re produced. For example, produce can be called USDA Organic if it is certified to have grown on soil that had no prohibited substances applied for three years prior to harvest. Prohibited substances include most synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. However, in meats, for example, animals must be raised in living conditions that allow for their natural behavior (e.g., grazing on pasture, etc.). They must be fed 100% organic feed and forage and cannot be administered antibiotics or synthetic growth hormones. So yeah, there’s a lot to know.
But what about organic candy like YumEarth which doesn’t grow in the ground like a rutabega or roam around the yard like a chicken?
To earn the USDA organic seal - like YumEarth has – USDA regulations prohibit organically processed foods from containing artificial preservatives, colors, or flavors. It also requires that their ingredients are 95% organic too.
As with all organic food, none of the ingredients grown or handled can use genetically modified organisms, which the organic standards expressly prohibit.
The 5% of non-organic ingredients must be products that are not commercially available as organic - you can find more information on organic labeling here.
Hold on - does “made with organic” mean the same thing as USDA certified organic?
Nope -and it’s an important distinction. “Made with organic [specific ingredient or food group],” means the product contains at least 70% organically produced ingredients. The remaining non-organic ingredients cannot have been produced via prohibited practices (like genetic engineering, for example). But they can include substances that would not otherwise be allowed in 95% organic products. That’s why “Made with organic” products will not bear the USDA organic seal.
That’s a lot of differences. How are stores responding?
Retailers are all over organic! From Kroger to Stop & Shop to Target and beyond, more and more stores are stocking organic varieties of products. How many? Well, organic options are now offered in 75% of all categories on supermarket shelves. Which is probably why they’re also being found in the cupboards of over 80% of American households! (Source: Organic Trade Association. 2018 Organic Industry Survey)
Want to learn more?
To find out more about YumEarth’s USDA-certified organic candies, visit our handy product selector.
And to find out even more about the details of organic, the USDA’s own website is actually a great resource. It also has really helpful information on organic agriculture, organic farming and more. Check them out here: https://www.usda.gov/media/blog/2012/03/22/organic-101-what-usda-organic-label-means
And to learn more about how organic is growing in America, check out the Organic Trade Association for useful information: https://www.ota.com.
Information provided by https://www.ota.com