Organic is a term that indicates that the food or agricultural
product has been produced using sustainable practices and without synthetic
fertilizers, sewage sludge, irradiation, or genetic engineering. Products may be labeled “100% organic”, “organic” or “made with
Food products labeled as “100% organic” must consist entirely
of organic ingredients; food products labeled “organic” must consist of 95%
certified organic ingredients; and food products labeled “made with organic”
must contain at least 70% certified organic ingredients (minus water and
salt). Food products containing 95% or more organic content may
use the USDA Organic Logo on their product labels or advertising. Unless exempted or excluded under the National Organic Program (NOP)
rules, all organic food products must be certified by an accredited certifying
agency (ACA), and the ACA must be identified on the product label.
Cosmetic and personal care products, although not covered under
the National Organic Program (NOP) regulations established for food, can be
labeled as “organic” or “made with organic” under California law if the cosmetic
contains a minimum organic content of 70% (minus water and salt). If a cosmetic is able to meet the NOP [food] standards, the cosmetic can
be certified and labeled in accordance with NOP rules. Cosmetics
sold as organic cannot be labeled or advertised in a way that would lead
consumers to believe they are certified organic or in compliance with NOP
requirements, unless they are certified under the NOP regulations.
Organic Oversight - Laws and Regulations
Laws relating to the handling of organic foods are codified in
the federal Organic Foods Production Act of 1990, the California Organic Food and Farming Act (COFFA), and the National Organic Program (NOP) Regulations
(which California adopts).
The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) and the
California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) work cooperatively with the
US Department of Agriculture (USDA) to enforce the organic regulations within
California. CDPH oversees processors and handlers of organic food,
pet food, and cosmetics, and CDFA oversees organic agricultural production, milk
and dairy food processing, meat and poultry processing, and retail organic
production activities. Use this infographic (PDF) to provide clarification about which department to register with.
If an operation’s annual gross sales of organic food are greater
than $5,000 they are required to obtain certification from an accredited third-party certifier, who will verify the sourcing of the agricultural inputs, verify
the organic content of processed products, and ensure that operations are
conforming with NOP regulations. A link to the list of certifiers
operating in California can be found below.
COFFA requires every person to obtain an Organic Processed
Product Registration (OPPR) from CDPH, if they process or handle processed food
or cosmetics that are “sold as organic.” Operations that process organic products at retail must register with CDFA. The term ”sold as organic” means any
use of the terms “organic”, “organically grown”, or like terms on any aspect of
the product advertising or labeling, including on the principal display panel,
information panel or in the ingredient statement.
Most organic food processors and handlers cannot be issued an
OPPR unless they possess a valid Processed Food Registration (PFR) from
CDPH. The Processed Food Registration acts as a basic health
permit authorizing the company to engage in food processing and handling.
It is required regardless of the food being conventionally or organically
produced. Links to the registration applications are available
Not all handlers of organic processed food products have a food
processing facility. Brokers, importers, or firms selling organic product
which are produced on their behalf by a contract manufacturer or co-packer,
must register under OPPR. No Processed Food Registration is required,
provided that the firm does not take custody of any of the products.
Individuals that contract with another company to manufacture an organic food
product on their behalf must obtain an OPPR as a handler.
If you would like to file a complaint regarding an organic
product, please visit the FDB Complaints Webpage for more information.