Eating organic is an increasingly popular dietary trend that is not going away anytime soon. As more and more people learn how to use food to prevent and even eliminate common illnesses, the interest in fresh, wholesome, organic meal options only stokes greater demand for it in the foodservice industry. The organic industry is already a multi-billion dollar empire that is steadily taking over everything from grocery store selections to fast food items.
Unlike terms such as “natural,” which can be used freely as a marketing ploy, any agricultural items or other fiber, feed input, or food that is labeled, represented, or sold as “organic” must follow strict USDA organic guidelines and regulations. The four categories of certification include wild crops, livestock, crops, and handling (packaging, processing, or selling). Any item that you find with a certified USDA Organic seal is guaranteed to contain at least 95% organic ingredients, many of which are often labeled individually under the ingredients list.
The USDA is able to monitor operations related to the organic industry through the USDA National Organic Program (NOP), which is responsible for the development of the standards for official certification and the enforcement of USDA Organic regulations. There are many complex requirements that must be followed by those working in the organic industry. Farming practices, food handling procedures, pesticide use, fertilizer choice, and more, are all under scrutiny when it comes to becoming officially certified as organic by the USDA.
Organic farmers are ordered by official USDA and NOP “law” to practice ecological responsibility in terms of resource recycling, maintenance of environmental balance, and the preservation of the area’s biodiversity as well as avoiding artificial substances such as pesticides and synthetic fertilizers for advantageous growth. Instead, organic farmers are encouraged to utilize natural minerals to create healthier soil that facilitates a self-strengthening environment that enables future growth. Though there are no size requirements to becoming an official organic farm and organic farmers can utilize both organic and conventional production practices on the same property, buffer zones may be required to avoid contamination and all regulations still apply. For organic handlers who are responsible for the processing, storing, and packaging of organic products, the USDA focuses more on enforcing specific rules related to the avoidance of contamination from prohibited substances and other non-organic products during modification.
Official rules, regulations, policies, and requirements are outlined in the official USDA National Organic Program (NOP) handbook, which covers everything from the use of kelp in organic feed, and sulfur dioxide in wine made with organic fruit, to technical assistance and information on unannounced inspections.
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