|Food Label: Certified Organic By..
Using the Claim "Certified Organic By Â…" on Meat and Poultry
What does "Certified Organic By.." on food product labels mean?
Congress passed the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA) of 1990 to
(1) establish national standards governing the marketing of certain
agricultural products as organically produced products, (2) assure
consumers that organically produced products meet a consistent
standard, and (3) facilitate commerce in organically produced fresh
and processed food.
USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) is developing regulations
for the use of the term "organic" on the labeling of food products. A
proposed rule discussing this important issue was published on
December 16, 1997, in the Federal Register (62 FR 65850) which
resulted in about 280,000 public comments. In response to the
proposed rules, commenters raised many complex issues. AMS is
planning to reissue a proposed rule that will address these issues
and seek further comment. Furthermore, the National Organic
Standards Board (NOSB), formed as a result of the OFPA, continues to
advise AMS on promulgating OFPA regulations.
Allowance of "Certified Organic By Â…"
The AMS decision to seek further public comment will further delay the
final regulation on "organic agricultural products." As a result, a
number of meat and poultry producers have expressed a desire to
market meat and poultry products bearing the claim "certified organic
by" a certifying authority or entity until the issuance of a final rule that
defines the term "organic." In consideration of the circumstances, the
Department will permit the use on the label of a meat or poultry
product a factual statement that the product has been "certified
organic by (a certifying entity)." The certifying entity must have (1)
standards for what constitutes an agricultural product that is
"organically" produced, and (2) a system for ensuring that products it
certifies meets those standards.
FSIS is the agency in USDA that has the responsibility for assuring
that the labeling of meat and poultry products is truthful and not
misleading. Labeling bearing claims, such as "certified organic by (a
certifying entity)," are evaluated by FSIS prior to use.
Because the term "organic" has not yet been defined by USDA, it may
not be used by itself as a claim on the labeling of meat and poultry
products.1 By allowing the claim "certified organic by (a certifying
entity)," FSIS will not be defining the term "organic" or the criteria to
which the production of agricultural products must adhere in order to
apply the term to their labeling. The AMS, supported by the activities
of the National Organic Program (NOP) and NOSB, continues to be the
focal point for the Department's efforts to define "organic" and
establish the circumstances under which it applies to agricultural
products, including meat and poultry products. Accreditation of
certifying entities will be addressed in the final rules that AMS
promulgates on "organic" agricultural products. Therefore, when the
Department has promulgated final rules defining "organic," any
labeling statement that uses the term "organic" would have to be in
accordance with those rules. This issue will be addressed in final rules
that AMS promulgates on "organic" agricultural products.
1 Except as part of the signature line on labels, if "organic" is part of
the company's incorporated name, and it is deemed to not be
Requests for Evaluation/Approval of Labeling Bearing "Certified
Organic By (A Certifying Entity)"
Labeling for meat and poultry products bearing claims is evaluated for
approval prior to its use by FSIS's Labeling and Additives Policy
Division. Labeling includes any written, printed, or graphic material
which is used on the containers or wrapping of meat and poultry
products, or that accompanies meat and poultry products at their
point of sale, e.g., "point of purchase" materials (Policy Memo 114A).
The term "certified organic by" is to be followed by the name of the
certifying entity, and the entire statement may appear anywhere on
the labeling of meat and poultry products. All words in the claim are to
be contiguous and of the same size, style, and color.
Labeling bearing the term "certified organic by (a certifying entity)"
submitted for prior approval is to be accompanied by certification
documentation that is to be provided to the meat or poultry producer
by the certifying entity. The necessary documentation includes (1) the
name of the meat or poultry product, and/or ingredient used in the
meat or poultry product, (2) the certifying entity's name and address,
(3) the name and signature of the responsible official at the certifying
entity, (4) the date of certification, and (5) the acknowledgement that
the entity (a) has applied criteria in certifying the product and (b)
employs a system for evaluating ongoing compliance with its criteria.
The criteria that are applied by the certifying entity do not need to be
provided to the Division. Questions regarding the criteria for "organic"
certification should be addressed to the respective certifying entity.
Applications for labeling bearing the claim "certified organic by (a
certifying entity)" are to be directed to the attention of the Labeling
and Additives Policy Division, FSIS, USDA, Room 616C, Cotton Annex,
Washington, DC 20250, for evaluation. Inquiries regarding labeling
and standards, including labeling claims, such as "certified organic by
(a certifying entity)" and animal production claims, may be directed to
Dr. Robert Post, Director, Labeling and Additives Policy Division.
Division staff may be reached by phone at (202) 205-0279 for
Animal Production Claims and "Natural" Claims
FSIS will permit the claim "certified organic by (a certifying entity)"
along with the use of animal production claims and the term "natural."
FSIS has permitted the application of "animal production claims," i.e.,
truthful statements about how the animals from which meat and
poultry products are derived or raised, on the labeling of meat and
poultry products. For many years, animal production claims have
served as an alternative to the use of the term "organic" on the
labeling of meat and poultry products in the absence of a uniformly
accepted definition. Thus, producers may wish to continue the use of
animal production claims on meat and poultry labeling. Examples of
animal production claims are "No Hormone Implants Used in Raising,"
"Raised Without Added Hormones," "No Antibiotics Used in Raising,"
"Corn Fed," "Fed An All Vegetable Diet," "Raised In An Open Pasture,"
and "Free Range." The system FSIS has in place for evaluating the
necessary supporting documentation to ensure the accuracy of animal
production claims, such as producer affidavits and raising protocols,
will continue to be used whenever these types of claims are made.
The term "natural" may be used when products contain no artificial
ingredients and are no more than minimally processed in accordance
with FSIS Policy Memo 055. This term may be used in combination
with the claim "certified organic by (a certifying entity)" when the
conditions of the policy are met.
REFERENCE Labeling and Consumer Protection USDA Online
Publication November 03, 2005.