Organic foods have become ubiquitous in the past few years, with the idea of healthy eating finding one of its main examples in this trend. With this increased awareness has come close regulation of what constitutes an organic product. Such laws were inevitable, and they can help increase customer confidence that they are really buying items that meet with stringent conditions in growth and preparation. That said, companies are now facing the challenge of measuring up to the specifications laid out by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The Complexities of Being Organic
While getting an organic certification can be tough, the true degree of difficulty involved varies depending on a label's wording. Food Business News pointed out that "100 percent organic" is one of the toughest distinctions to earn. Every ingredient in such a product must be certified organic on its own merits, which rules out some kinds of produce altogether. If getting to 100 percent organic isn't possible, companies can opt for an alternate label such as "made with organic ingredients," which requires 70 percent organic content and the rest from the National List of Allowed Substances.
According to Food Business News, there is a third option: simply "organic." To earn that impressively terse designation, foods need to contain 5 percent or less of non-organic ingredients from the National List of Allowed Substances. That list of permitted non-organic elements is assembled by the National Organic Program and consists of ingredients that aren't available in organic forms, don't harm the environment and follow the principles of the organic movement, despite their lack of certification.
Going Beyond Sustainable
While some companies are pursuing sustainable designations for their products, others have aimed even higher. Sierra reported that a group of companies has created the Regenerative Organic Certification program, a label designated for companies that are engaging in practices that actively regenerate the natural environment. This is a seal for items that are designed to be even greener and more nature-conscious than organic goods.
Since this program to emphasize conservation practices is ambitious and experimental, the label won't appear on shelves for a few years. The organizations behind the ROC seal are aiming for a 2019 or 2020 launch. It is one of a few programs to develop more stringent organic labels as the federal government loosens some of the restrictions within its own definition of organic produce and livestock.