So much of the produce you see in the supermarket has traveled hundreds, if not thousands of miles, to get to the display in front of you. It makes sense to wonder if the product you’re choosing is truly organic, given that it traveled from so far, especially when you see labels indicating produce that has been imported from another country. That avocado crossed the desert to get to you. This can sometimes leave you unsure and doubtful when shopping at your market, because you don’t know the guidelines, labeling practices, and restrictions on imported organic foods.
Rest assured, the USDA, the certifying organization for organic products here in the United States, has set standards for important organic food items and ingredients. Imported organic products must be certified to one of two standards set by the USDA to be imported and sold in the United States.
USDA Organic Regulations
To use the USDA organic label on a product, companies must be certified by the USDA, in accordance with strict organic production practices. This means that farming practices must integrate cultural, biological, and mechanical practices that promote resource recycling, ecological balance, and biodiversity. In simpler terms, both plant and animal based food products that boast the organic label must be free of pesticides, artificial fertilizers, antibiotics, growth hormones, or genetically modified seeds and livestock.
Once these practice guidelines are met, the business submits an application and goes under close review and inspection of the applicant’s operation, and if it truly complies, then the certified organic certificate is issued. Luckily, this process is available to food producers worldwide, so foreign farmers and businesses can have the peace of mind knowing that this produce falls under the same scrutinous regulations as the homegrown stuff.
Authorized International Standard
The National Organic Program works with agencies dedicated to organic certification to established international trade agreements for organic products coming from Canada, Europe, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea and Mexico, to name a few. These arrangement are often less strict than the USDA regulations, however, they do ban the use of antibiotics in livestock, require at least 90% organic threshold, and implement strict labeling laws. The specifics of each agreement depend on the country, but general import requirements include strict labeling, product quality and health inspections.
If you have any doubts, it’s always most safe to reach for an import that has been certified under the USDA regulations directly, as it is the strictest for organic products.
Make sure to download the Now Find Organic App from the Apple or Google Play stores so that you have access to our extensive database of certified organic products.
For more information on organic living, please visit our resources page.