Organic Food Certification
Ensures that Your Food Is Organic

Have you ever seen food with an organic label, but still asked: “How do I know that this food is actually organic?”

I did…until I learned about organic food certification—a process that sanctions food as “organic.”

Hopefully, you can have the sigh of relief that I once had…

…now that you know a procedure exists that ensures food with an organic label is in fact organic.

On this page, I answer questions you might have about the certification of organic food including:

  • Who establishes standards for certification?
  • How does the certification process work?
  • Can you be sure that organic food has been certified?
  • Which foods can be certified organic foods?

Who Establishes Standards for Organic Food Certification?

The United States government passed the Organic Food Production Act (OFPA) in 1990. The goal of this act was to implement national regulations for organic food production, processing and labeling.

The National Organic Program (NOP), a part of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), was formed in order to determine these organic food regulations. However, these regulations were not standardized until 2002.

Today, the NOP standards determine whether or not food is “organic.”

(Learn about these standards on the definition of organic food page.)

If food proves to be “organic” according to NOP standards, then it can be certified as organic.

How Does Organic Food Certification Work?

During organic food certification, an independent USDA-approved certification agency examines food.

The agency certifies food as “organic” only if...

…The production and processing methods used to create the food…

…prove to meet NOP standards for organic food production and processing.

If a food product passes the certification inspection, it can feature the certified organic seal on its packaging.

What does the seal look like? It is a round green and white label that reads: “USDA Organic.”

However, you may see a variety of “organic” labels on food. Click here for help with understanding the different organic food labels.

Can You Be Sure that Organic Food Has Been Certified?

So, the certification inspection ensures that food is labeled as organic only if its production and processing meet NOP standards.

However, can we be sure that food companies do not cheat the system? Do they bypass the certification inspection, but package food with an organic label anyways? In other words, do they sell us “organic” food products that aren’t really organic?

Let’s hope not (for them)! By law, food with an organic label must follow NOP production and processing rules. Civil fines for breaking these rules escalate into the thousands!

Ok, enough about these food rules and regulations!

I’ll answer one more question about organic food itself…

Which Foods Can Be Certified Organic Foods?

Does the term “organic food” conjure up colorful images of healthy fruits and vegetables for you? It always does for my friends.

However, they are usually surprised to learn that grains, seeds, nuts and beans can also be organic.

Organic foods additionally include meat, poultry, eggs, dairy products, oils, vinegar and a host of other items from the food pyramid.

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