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What It All Means

October 07, 2002

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's new labels are designed to help consumers figure out--at a glance--the exact organic content of the foods they buy.

Only products in the first two categories, in which 95% or more of the ingredients are organic, can bear the USDA organic certification seal. This includes products made domestically and imported from abroad. No genetically modified organisms, chemical pesticides, irradiation or sewage sludge can be used to make products that carry the "organic" label.

* 100% organic: Exclusively cultivated and processed according to USDA standards.

* Organic: At least 95% of the ingredients are organic. (For some packaged foods, key ingredients, such as spices or enzymes, aren't available in organic versions.)

* Made with organic ingredients: At least 70% of the ingredients are organic. In this category, the word "organic" can be printed on the front of the package, but the product can't use the USDA logo. These products can't contain any added sulfites, either.

* Some organic ingredients: Less than 70% of the ingredients are organic. On these products, organic ingredients can be listed on the side panel of the package along with other ingredients, but no organic claims can be made on the front of the package.

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