Organic ingredients must meet a set of standards to be officially certified.

Organic Ingredients

What are Organic Ingredients?

Organic ingredients are food materials from animal or plant origin produced according to organic standards. In the U.S., these standards are established and regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

  • The goal of these ingredients is to provide more natural, high-quality ingredients that are free from chemical residues.
  • They are regarded as a healthy and environmentally-friendly option.
  • Especially, for consumers trying to avoid what they perceive as unhealthy food ingredients or processing methods.


The term “organic” was officially defined in the U.S. in 2002 following the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990 (OFPA).

Created by the U.S. National Organic Standards Board (NOSB), OFPA establishes standards, develops definitions and provides technical recommendations to the National Organic Program (NOP). This is a federal regulatory program within the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) of USDA.3

Materials banned in the production of these ingredients:1,2

Plant-based Animal-based
  • Artificial fertilizers and sewage sludge
  • Synthetic pesticides
  • Herbicides
  • Additives
  • Genetic manipulation (GMO)
  • Food irradiation
  • Antibiotics
  • Growth hormones (e.g. recombinant bovine somatotropin or rBST)
  • Use of veterinary drugs is kept to a minimum
  • Food irradiation
  • Genetic manipulation (GMO)

How are they certified?

In order to claim an ingredient as organic, it must meet USDA organic standards. Also, the producer needs to go through a certification process. The USDA sets standards for livestock, crops, and multi-ingredient foods. These standards are codified in 7 CFR Section 205. The USDA is the government agency that certifies organic food.

In this process, a USDA certifying agent first inspects the facilities where the food is grown and processed. Then, they determine whether organic standards are being met. If so, the producer can to label food products with the organic seal.3

The organic certification agency approves all packaging, artwork, sanitation, chemicals and pest control. Once approved, businesses receive registration and a business license for a $2,600 fee. The whole process can take from 12 to 16 weeks.

How is an organic product labelled?

For ingredients and finished products foods to be labeled “organic,'' they have to fit one of the four official definitions listed by USDA. This table shows the different definitions:2,3

Organic term

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