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Learn more about the USDA organic standards at or call the National Organic Program at 202-720-3252. You can also write them at USDA-AMS-TM-NOP, Room 4008 S. Bldg., Ag Stop 0268, 1400 Independence, SW, Washington DC 20250.

What's the Difference Between Natural and Organic?

Only food labeled "organic" has been certified as meeting USDA organic standards. The term "natural" means that a food product is basically free of artificial and synthetic ingredients and for meat and poultry, the products are also minimally processed. Truthful claims, such as "free-range," "hormone-free" and "natural" can still appear on food labels. But they don't mean that the food is organic.

What Do the Various Organic Food Labels Mean?
Single-ingredient foods, such as vegetables and pieces of fruit, carry the USDA Organic label either as a sticker or on the sign above the bin. Meat, cartons of milk or eggs, cheese earn the organics label if they are grown or produced on organic-certified farms. The USDA Organics label means that these foods are at least 95% organic.

For foods with more than one ingredient, the labels differ:
1. Foods with 100% organic ingredients are labeled "100% Organic"

2. Foods that contain 95-100% organic ingredients are labeled "Organic"

3. Processed foods that contain at least 70% organic ingredients can use the phrase "Made with organic ingredients" and list up to three of the organic ingredients on the display panel

Processed foods with less than 70% organic ingredients cannot use the term organic anywhere on the main display panel, but may identify the specific ingredients that are organically produced in the ingredients statement

Look for the name and address of the government-approved certifier on all packaged products that contain at least 70% ingredients

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