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Understanding the Organic Label

Before you start buying organic products, make sure you understand the labels so you can make informed choices.

The main thing you should be looking for is the certified organic label. It white and green, and says "USDA Organic". This label means that the grower or manufacturer is a certified operation with the United States Department of Agriculture. They have been investigated and inspected to insure that they are not using any prohibited chemical pesticides, herbicides or fertilizers in their products.

But there is a little more to it than that. Seeing this label is really only the first step. Single ingredient products, or fresh fruits and vegetables are the easiest to identify and understand because of how simple they are. When buying manufactured products with many ingredients, such as a box of cereal or crackers, then the label will have more levels of meaning.

A product that is made with only organic ingredients can hold the official label as well as the words "100% organic". But you may also see the organic label on a product that has 95% or more organic ingredients. These can be labeled with the seal, but not the "100%" mark. So even if it says "organic", there can be up to 5% (by weight) non-organic substances inside.

Any product with between 94% and 70% organic ingredients can have a label that says its made with organic ingredients but it won't have the official green and white seal.

As you can see, just finding the word "organic" on a package isn't enough. Take a closer look so you know what you are buying. When you see labels such as "all natural" or "environmentally friendly", you should take them with a grain of salt. None of these terms are regulated and they do not have any substantial meaning. While that doesn't necessarily mean the company is out to fool you and their products may very well be natural and toxin-free. But without some official regulations behind the terms, you can never really be sure.

If buying organic is important, then look for the label. Just be aware that even products with the USDA organic seal may have up to 5% non-organic ingredients inside.

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