USDA Suggests Changes to “Made With Organic…” Requirements

Washington, D.C.—The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is seeking comments on a new guidance for foods bearing the “made with organic…” label. The modification is being designed in response to the USDA National Organic Program (NOP) stating that labels that read, for example, “made with 70 percent organic ingredients” are unacceptable and misleading. 

The “made with organic…” label can legally be used on any product that is made with a minimum of 70% organic ingredients. According to the USDA, the document “clarifies the use of percentage statements under the ‘made with organic’ labeling category.”

For example, “a percentage statement must be accompanied by the statement, “made with organic (specified ingredients or food group[s])”’ when displayed on packages of products in this category, which are described in Sec. 205.301(c),” says the USDA.

A further stipulation is that the phrase “100% organic” cannot be used with a “made with organic…” label. This is because customers may interpret that to mean that the product on the whole is composed of 100% organic ingredients, and that may not be the case.

Industry may make comments on the draft guidance (AMS-NOP-10-0045) until March 14, 2011 at As of press time, several comments have been filed and many are not happy with the new language. For instance, a comment from Joel Dee of Edward & Sons Trading Company states, “The proposed language states that the non-organic ingredient component (up to 30%) of a ‘made with organic’ product may be produced using synthetic substances not appearing on the National List at § 205.605. We can support this language only if it is clear that the organic ingredient component (70%+) of a ‘made with organic’ product MAY NOT be produced using synthetic substances not appearing on the National List at § 205.605. We support the guidance for declaring the percentage of organic ingredients in a ‘made with organic’ product.”

Another similar comment from Donald Gehre of Dark Star Certified Organic Produce states, “It is not responsible—and it is misleading—to allow any kind of food that is not 100% organic to be labeled as organic. If the 70% organic rule is adopted, then the other 30% could be contain any substance…The USDA Organic seal should therefore not be allowed on any food stuff that is not 100% organic.”


 Published in Whole Foods Magazine, March 2011 (online 2/4/2011)