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USDA seeks comments on organic label claims

By Caroline Scott-Thomas , 18-Jan-2011

The US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) is seeking comments on draft guidance for the labeling of products that contain at least 70 percent organic ingredients.

The Federal Register notice refers to the labeling, composition and percentage statements for products in the ‘made with organic (specified ingredients or food groups)’ category of the National Organic Program (NOP). In particular, it defines the permitted use of non-organic ingredients in such products and the use of statements about the percentage of organic ingredients used in such products.

The NOP defines the requirements for products to be labeled ‘100 percent organic’, ‘organic’ and ‘made with organic (specified ingredients or food groups)’. In order to qualify for the latter statement, foods or beverages must contain at least 70 percent certified organic agricultural products and none of the ingredients in the finished product are allowed to have been produced through excluded methods, such as genetic modification, sewage sludge or ionizing radiation.

The provisions also allow for companies to list the percentage of individual organic ingredients in a product, and the NOP said it has received questions from industry about how this should be implemented.

The notice asks: “For example, may a soup label state, ‘75 percent organic ingredients’ on the principal display panel without a ‘made with organic vegetables’ statement?”

The guidance seeks to clarify the NOP’s position on this and similar questions. For this question in particular, it said that the ‘made with (insert number) percent organic ingredients’ would not comply with its requirements on its own.

“The ‘made with organic (specified ingredients or food group(s))’ statement is essential to clarify the product category,” it said.

Comments must be submitted before March 14, 2011. Instructions on how to submit comments are available in the Federal Register notice .

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