Forget “natural,” could there be a more ambiguous word in food today than “organic”? The term is so difficult to decipher that the USDA has multiple definitions for it. To find foods that are truly organic look for the USDA Organic Seal on the packing. That means one of two things: the product is either “100% Organic” or “Organic.” The former is made entirely with organic ingredients while the latter contains more than 95 percent organic ingredients. See what I mean about muddy designations?
You might see a wrapper or box marked “Made with organic ingredients.” That’s for a product that contains at least 70 percent organic ingredients. If the food has less than 70 percent organic ingredients then any nod towards organic can only be listed in the ingredients section.
Another question on determining truly organic brands is, can a brand be judged by its ingredients and farming and sustainability practices alone? Many of the popular health brands started as a one- or two-man operation and, once they reached a certain level of profitability, were bought out by the industry conglomerates. For example, Green & Black’s chocolate is certified organic, but they are owned by Cadbury Schweppes. Do the actions of the parent company have any effect on its subsidiary? On the other end of the spectrum, does a tiny family-run farm like Flying Pigs in upstate New York count as a brand? Unfortunately, the USDA doesn’t have an answer, so for uniformity let’s say no to the first question and yes to the second.
The best way to see if a brand utilizes organic practices is to check out its web site. Those who do will likely have a separate vertical focused on the benefits of organic living. Those who don’t will delicately sidestep the conversation by telling you how healthy their food is. Ultimately, let the USDA Organic Seal be your guide.