USDA Certified Organic


NOP Regulations: Subpart D – Labels, Labeling, and Market Information
The labeling requirements of the NOP apply to raw, fresh products and processed products that contain organic agricultural ingredients. Agricultural products that are sold,
labeled, or represented as organic must be produced and processed in accordance with the NOP standards. Except for operations whose gross income from organic sales totals $5,000 or less, farm and processing operations that grow and process organic agricultural products must be certified by USDA-accredited certifying agents.

§ 205.311 USDA Seal.

(a) The USDA seal described in paragraphs (b) and (c) of this section may be used only for raw or processed agricultural products described in paragraphs (a), (b), (e)(1), and (e)(2) of § 205.301.

(b) The USDA seal must replicate the form and design of the example in figure 1 and must be printed legibly and conspicuously:

(1) On a white background with a brown outer circle and with the term, “USDA,” in green overlaying a white upper semicircle and with the term, “organic,” in white overlaying the green lower half circle; or

(2) On a white or transparent background with black outer circle and black “USDA” on a white or transparent upper half of the circle with a contrasting white or transparent “organic” on the black lower half circle.

(3) The green or black lower half circle may have four light lines running from left to right and disappearing at the point on the right horizon to resemble a cultivated field.


In the US, federal organic legislation defines three levels of organics. Products made entirely with certified organic ingredients and methods can be labeled “100% organic”. Products with at least 95% organic ingredients can use the word “organic”. Both of these categories may also display the USDA organic seal. A third category, containing a minimum of 70% organic ingredients, can be labeled “made with organic ingredients”. In addition, products may also display the logo of the certification body that approved them. Products made with less than 70% organic ingredients can not advertise this information to consumers and can only mention this fact in the product’s ingredient statement. Similar percentages and labels apply in the EU.

In the U.S., the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990 requires the Secretary of Agriculture to establish a National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances which identifies synthetic substances that may be used, and the nonsynthetic substances that cannot be used, in organic production and handling operations.”

Also in the U.S., the National Organic Program (NOP), was enacted as federal legislation in October 2002. It restricts the use of the term “organic” to certified organic producers (excepting growers selling under $5,000 a year, who must still comply and submit to a records audit if requested, but do not have to formally apply). Certification is handled by state, non-profit and private agencies that have been approved by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA).