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Organic Packaged Food

Single-ingredient foods are easy to shop for because they are either organic or they're not. Fruits, vegetables, meat, milk or eggs can be purchased without too much confusion as long as you are looking for the certified organic seal.

But these days, there is a whole range of packaged and processed foods that are classed as organic as well. Morningstar, Back to Nature, Cascadian Farms, Amy's Kitchen and Health Valley are a few of the better known ones. Newman's Own also carries a line of organic products. Many manufacturers who go organic tend to be smaller scale than these national brands. So you may see a whole other range of choices at your own local health food store.

Being certified to carry the USDA organic seal is just as regulated for packaged foods as for single-ingredient goods, so you can trust it when you see it as long as you understand that multi-ingredient foods have some differences. Basically, there is some leeway in terms of what counts as organic when you are dealing with up to a dozen or more separate ingredients.

Unless it says "100% organic", there may be some non-organic ingredients in the product. A plain "organic" label means there can be up to 5% by weight of non-organic ingredients in your product, and something that says "made with organic ingredients" will have between 70 and 95% organic ingredients. These items will not have the USDA seal on them. There is definitely more of a spectrum here than when you shop for fruits and vegetables.

Unfortunately, foods aren't required to list specifically which ingredients are organic and which ones are not. If you are truly concerned about these details, you can stick with the 100% organic assurances. Foods labeled as "all natural" are not regulated and may not contain what you think they contain.

You should also keep in mind that organic isn't a synonym for healthy. Processed foods can be 100% organic and still have high levels of salt, sugar or oil in them. Generally this isn't the case, as most companies who choose to sell organic foods are doing so with a healthy mindset from the start. But face it, even organic eaters like a little junk food now and again.

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