Labeling Organic Products

About Organic Labeling

This page provides an overview of key requirements and the various labeling categories allowed under the USDA organic regulations. Organic product labels must be reviewed and approved by a USDA-accredited certifying agent before being used in the marketplace.

What requirements do organic products have to meet? 

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  • Organic products must be produced using agricultural production practices that foster resource cycling, promote ecological balance, maintain and improve soil and water quality, minimize the use of synthetic materials, and conserve biodiversity. Products must be:

Can a product be labeled “organic” without being certified? 

  • If you make a product and want to claim that it or its ingredients are organic, your final product probably needs to be certified.
  • If you are not certified, you must not make any organic claim on the principal display panel or use the USDA organic seal anywhere on the package. (see exemption below)
  • You may only, on the information panel, identify the certified organic ingredients as organic and the percentage of organic ingredients.

What do the organic product labeling rules cover? 

  • Covers wording allowed on both the front panel and the information panel of a packaged product:
    • Principal display panel (PDP): portion of the package most likely to be seen by customers at the time of purchase
    • Information panel (IP): includes ingredient statement (list of ingredients contained in a product, from highest to lowest percentage of final product) and other product information
  • View complete rules in the “Product Composition” section of the USDA organic regulations

What do the four different organic labels mean? 

“100 Percent Organic”

  • Used to label any product that contains 100 percent organic ingredients (excluding salt and water, which are considered natural)
  • Most raw, unprocessed or minimally processed farm crops can be labeled “100 percent organic”
    • PDP: May include USDA organic seal and/or 100 percent organic claim
    • IP: Identify organic ingredients (e.g., organic dill) or via asterisk or other mark

“Organic”

  • Any product that contains a minimum of 95 percent organic ingredients (excluding salt and water)
  • Up to 5 percent of ingredients may be nonorganic agricultural products and/or nonagricultural products on the National List (nonorganic agricultural products and several nonagricultural products on the National List may only be used if they are not commercially available as organic)
    • PDP: May include USDA organic seal and/or organic claim
    • IP: Identify organic ingredients (e.g., organic dill) or via asterisk or other mark

“Made with Organic ______”

  • Product contains at least 70 percent organically produced ingredients (excluding salt and water), with a number of detailed constraints regarding ingredients that comprise the nonorganic portion
    • PDP: May state “made with organic (insert up to three ingredients or ingredient categories)”; must not include USDA organic seal anywhere, represent finished product as organic, or state “made with organic ingredients”
    • IP: Identify organic ingredients (e.g., organic dill) or via asterisk or other mark

Specific Organic Ingredient Listings

  • Specific organic ingredients may be listed in the ingredient statement of products containing less than 70 percent organic contents—for example, “Ingredients: water, barley, beans, organic tomatoes, salt.”
    • PDP: Must not include USDA organic seal anywhere or the word “organic”
    • IP: May only list certified organic ingredients as organic in the ingredient list and the percentage of organic ingredients; remaining ingredients not required to follow the USDA organic regulations

What about labeling for alcoholic beverages? 

Is labeling for textiles different as well? 

  • Finished product is certified organic and produced in full compliance with the USDA organic regulations: entire product may be labeled organic and display the USDA organic seal
  • All instances of specific fibers in finished product are certified organic: label may claim the specific fibers are organic and identify the percentage of organic fibers
  • Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS): textiles that meet this standard may be sold as organic in the United States. Textiles: Unless the finished product is certified to the USDA organic regulations, product labels may not state or imply that the finished product is USDA organic or use the USDA organic seal.
  • Organic Textile Policy (pdf)

Are there separate rules for honey, mushrooms, or pet food?  

  • The USDA organic regulations do not currently include separate standards for these products.
  • Honey, mushrooms, and pet food may be certified to current production and handling standards and must comply with labeling requirements for organic products certified under these standards. Talk to your certifier for details.

Are there any exemptions? 

  • Producers who market less than $5,000 worth of organic products annually are not required to apply for organic certification, with the following caveats:
    • Must comply with the organic production and handling requirements of the regulations, including recordkeeping (for at least 3 years).
    • Products from such noncertified operations cannot be used as organic ingredients in processed products produced by another operation nor may they display the USDA certified organic seal.

Where can I get more information?