The term has specific guidelines defined by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Organic Program.
It states that organic meat, poultry, eggs and dairy products come from animals that are given no antibiotics or growth hormones. Organic plant foods are produced without using most conventional pesticides, fertilizers made with synthetic ingredients or sewage sludge, bioengineering or ionizing radiation. A government-approved certifier must inspect the farm to ensure these standards are met. In addition to organic farming, there are USDA standards for handling and processing.
There are three levels of organic claims on food labels:
- 100-percent Organic. Products that are completely organic or made of only organic ingredients qualify for this claim and a USDA Organic seal.
- Organic. Products in which at least 95 percent of its ingredients are organic qualify for this claim and a USDA Organic seal.
- Made with Organic Ingredients. These are food products in which at least 70 percent of ingredients are certified organic. The USDA organic seal cannot be used but “made with organic ingredients” may appear on its packaging.