Organic Food

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Any of the variety of food products grown or containing ingredients that have been produced without the use of antibiotics, chemicals, fertilizers, and pesticides. The USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture) has established specific standards that must be followed in order for foods to be labeled as Organic and to display the USDA seal of approval on the food label. The USDA standards require that the food be produced using "earth-friendly" farming practices, limiting the loss of topsoil or soil contamination and maximizing the renewability of the land. Further, the USDA requires that the Organic Food products be produced without the use of synthetic fungicides, herbicides, or pesticides. For the production of meat and poultry, the USDA requires that the animals be raised in an environment that provides access to fresh air, sunlight, shade, and other similar environmental features. The animals cannot be treated with antibiotics or hormones and must be fed with foods that are free of chemicals.

By adhering to the USDA rules, a food product can be labeled with an Organic designation as follows: 1) "100% Percent Organic" refers to products produced with only Organic ingredients; 2) Organic refers to products produced with 95% to 99% Organic ingredients - the remaining 5% or less of ingredients must be listed on the label and can consist of synthetics approved by the USDA; 3) Made With Organic Ingredients refers to products produced with 70% to 94% Organic ingredients and the remaining percentage can be synthetics on the approved USDA list. Contains Organic Ingredients is the label allowed for products that have less than 70% Organic ingredients and those ingredients can be listed in the ingredient panel of the label. Non-Certified Organic is a label that may be referenced for some food products when the item has been produced using Organic practices but has not received certification from the USDA since the process is lengthy and too expensive for some producers. To be classified as Non-Certified Organic, the soil used to grow the crops must have been free of chemical additives for at least three years.

Another term often used for classifying food items similar to Organic is Natural which is a reference to food products that have been processed in a manner that removes very few or none of the natural nutrients and similarly, does not use any restrictive additives or uses very few accepted additives to enhance the flavor, aid the growth, sweeten the end result, or preserve the product.

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