Making Sense of Organic Certifications

If you're making an effort to go organic in your paperless kitchen, you may be dismayed to know that the word "organic" on a package or a sign may not always mean the same thing. Currently in the U.S., there are no laws regarding the use of the word "organic," which means that any manufacturer can claim to sell organic spaghetti sauce, organic rice or any other type of product.

To ensure that what you are buying really does contain ingredients that were grown without the use of chemical pesticides or synthetic fertilizers, you should always look for products labeled as "certified organic." This indicates that a third-party organization or government agency has examined the product's ingredients and the techniques used in its manufacturing and that the certifying body has confirmed the product is indeed organic.

Unfortunately, not all "certified organic" products are the same either. Each body that offers certifications uses its own set of standards to decide what is and what is not organic. This makes it important that you select products that were certified by reputable groups.

One way to play it safe is to look for items approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the European Union; the official government of another nation like Japan, Canada or Australia or a state or provincial government body. There are also some reputable third-party groups that offer organic certification, including:


California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF)

Organic Crop Improvement Association (OCIA)

Quality Assurance International (QAI)

Soil Association (common for UK products)

National Association for Sustainable Agriculture (NASAA) (common for Australian products)

If you discover a new product certified by an agency not on this list, do some research before you buy it. A reputable organization should have a website that provides its standards for organic certification. By reading these, you can determine whether or not the organization's values are in line with your own and make an informed buying decision.

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