Organic certification is very much on our minds these days as we anticipate our annual organic inspection. Each year CCOF *(http://www.ccof.org), our certifying agency, sends an auditor out to verify that the things we have told them we are doing to ensure the integrity of our organic products are actually being done.
But there is understandably a little bit of confusion among consumers around the differing kinds of certifications, use of the USDA and certifier seals and labeling. I know I was confused when we started the process! I thought I would blog a little about the different aspects of organic certification and what they mean.
Did you know there are 4 levels of “organic” labeling, 3 of which require certification?
1. 100% Organic – must list the certifying agency and may use the USDA seal
a. 100% organic certified ingredients
b. Only organic processing aids are used
c. Can contain absolutely no non-organic ingredients
2. Organic - must list the certifying agency and may use the USDA seal
a. At least 95% organic ingredients are used
b. Remaining 5% can be non-organic if they are found on the National List**
c. All agricultural ingredients must be organic unless they are on the National List** AND are commercially unavailable as organic
3. “Made with Organic Ingredients” - must list the certifying agency, may NOT use the USDA seal
a. At least 70% organic ingredients are used
b. Remaining ingredients can be non-organic if they are found on the National List or non organic agricultural ingredients
c. Must describe the organic ingredients in the ingredient panel only
d. Cannot make other organic claims other than “Made with organic (specific ingredients)”
4. Less than 70% organic – not certified and cannot list a certifying agency
a. Can mention the organic ingredients in the ingredient panel only
b. Cannot make other organic claims elsewhere on the label.
Confused? Here are some clues.
If you see the USDA seal, your product has at least 95% organic ingredients and the other 5% are on an approved list.
If in doubt, check the ingredients list. The organic ingredients should be listed clearly as organic. You can see what ingredients are not organic and make your choice about its suitability from that.
Now to tell you about Tipu’s Chai’s products (we actually have products in each category):
1. 100% Organic: Slow Brew Original and Slow Brew Decaf – absolutely nothing non-organic in these!
2. Organic: Liquid Concentrates, Original and Decaf – the only non-organic ingredient is the citric acid we must use to make these shelf-stable. It is found on the National list** and is derived from citrus fruits.
3. Made with Organic: Tipu’s Chai Now Latte and (our newest product that will be launched in April 2012) Tipu’s Chai Now Sweet and Spicy – these are made with organic spices that are listed on the label, organic evaporated cane juice and Tipu’s Chai Now Latte has non-GMO*** organic soy powder. The only ingredients that are not organic are the tea and the ginger. We have not been able to find the tea or ginger of sufficient quality in organic form yet, but we haven’t stopped looking.
4. Less than 70% Organic ingredients: Tipu’s Chai Now Black Chai Tea (formerly Microground Instant) is made with the same ingredients as the products above without the sweetener or soy powder. Since it is only tea and spices, the relative percentage of tea to volume is higher and that tips the percentage of organic below 70%. But even though it is not certified, we still use organic spices and the same handling standards as if it were!
At Tipu’s Chai we really value and support the organic movement and will continue to source only the highest quality, organic ingredients for all of our products. We have found CCOF to be a wonderful certifier to work with, a fabulous support and source of information. Our health and our planet are worth the extra time, trouble and effort!
*CCOF was founded in 1973 as a mutual assistance and certification organization for organic farmers and was one the first organizations to perform organic certification in North America. Since then, the CCOF seal has been your assurance of certification with integrity. Today, CCOF maintains one of the most consumer recognized and trusted seals in the organic marketplace. CCOF remains one of the oldest and largest organic certification and trade associations in North America, with more than 2,000 certified members throughout the farm and processing community and more than 350 supporting members.
**The National list is a list of allowed and prohibited substances as provided for in The Organic Foods Production Act of 1990. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Organic_Foods_Production_Act_of_1990
***GMO refers to genetically modified organisms whose genetic material has been altered using genetic engineering techniques. Soybeans are one of the most common agricultural products to use this engineering. This has caused a great deal of controversy, especially among the organic and environmentalist community. Tipu’s Chai has chosen to avoid using genetically modified soybeans in our products.
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