It’s been a great start to the new year, and with this new year has come a renewed interest for many in making changes for ourselves and our families. Undoubtedly you are very familiar with seeing many types of fruits, vegetables and meats marketed as organic. Even if you don’t load your cart with all organic food, you have probably had that moment when you selected an organic avocado or tomato over a non-organic, disregarding the price difference, because you internally wanted to make a different decision about what your family is eating. While organic is now a mainstay on our grocers’ shelves, we wanted to take a closer look into the nuances of what makes organic, “organic,” and how we here at Where Food Comes From play a part in that verification process.
What does organic mean?
There can be some confusion when it comes to understanding what organic means. Some consumers assume it means natural, but the word natural doesn’t really get into the details of what organic is. Organic foods are foods made without synthetic chemicals or modified components like fertilizers or irradiation. As part of the certification process the USDA even requires organic farmers to consider impact to the environment by improving the quality of water and soil. This also includes helping to preserve wildlife, wetlands, and woodland areas to promote ecological balance. As you can see, the requirements don’t just focus on the actual food but also on the environment related to the growth and processing of that organic food.
Reasons Consumers Want Organic
Many consumers have switched to organic because they believe it’s the healthier option and even tastes better than the non-organic counterparts as organic foods do not contain imitation flavors. Other consumers are buying organic because they are simply concerned about antibiotics, chemicals, additives, and pesticides used in the production of their food and feel that certified organic foods provide them the necessary transparency to feel confident in the foods they purchase. In 2017, the Organic Trade Association reported organic food sales hit $45.2 billion and is projected to increase in the coming years. As a result, manufacturers will need to get creative with the increasing demand. Consumers want more than just traditional food options for breakfast, lunch and dinner and, because of this, even organic snack foods are increasing in popularity. Organic snack foods range from items such as potato chips and tortilla chips to bagels, pretzels, cookies and even chocolates and raisins.
The USDA has a strict process when it comes to organic products. In order to carry the label, there are certain criteria that products and processors must meet. This includes the following:
- Produced with No genetically modified organisms – Read the Policy to Learn More
- Produced with Only allowed substances – View List Here
- Follow All USDA organic regulations and overseen by a USDA National Organic authorized certifying agent
How Does WFCF Support National Organic Program (NOP)?
The organic market is growing rapidly and is not showing any signs of slowing down. Today, the USDA reports there are more than 22,000 organic approved farms in the United States. In order to carry the organic label, a product, its ingredients and all of its manufacturing processes must be evaluated to the USDA National Organic Program as required by law in the United States. Where Food Comes From plays a unique role in ensuring these standards and processes are upheld for consumers through its two organic Accredited Certifying Agencies – A Bee Organic and International Certification Services, Inc. (ICS). Each of these divisions specializes in organic certification for all types of food products. ICS has been a leader in establishing organic standards and processes in the United States for the last 35 years, and A Bee specializes in certifying quite a few unique product categories, include apiary, hydroponics and wild harvest crops.
To learn more about the world of organic certification, visit the sites below: