Green Guidelines: Organic & Local Foods

Once found only in health food stores, organic and locally farmed foods are now a regular feature at most supermarkets and in high demand at restaurants of all kinds.

Organic Food Labeling Rules

Products identified as organic must be USDA certified and follow a set of labeling rules:

  • Whole, completely organic foods, such as fruits or eggs, can carry the USDA seal and be labeled 100% organic;

  • Whole foods certified at least 95% organic can also care the USDA seal;

  • Foods that have more than one ingredient, such as breakfast cereal, can use the USDA organic seal plus the following wording, depending on the number of organic ingredients   

    • Products that contain at least 70% organic ingredients may say "made with organic ingredients" on the label, but may not use the seal;

    • Foods containing less than 70% organic ingredients can't use the seal or the word "organic" on product labels but can note organic items in ingredient lists;

  • Producers who sell less than $5,000 a year in organic foods are exempt from USDA certification but must follow the USDA's standards for organic foods;

  • Using the USDA seal and/or noting organic ingredients is never required.

Farm-to-Table Guidelines

The farm to table movement is concered with the handling of food from harvesting thru processing to consumption, for environmental as well as nutritional reasons:

  • Conventional food products travel between 1,500 and 3,000 miles to reach consumers, burning 500 gallons of diesel fuel per 1,500 miles;

  • To prevent spoilage on these long trips, some produce is picked early, allowed to ripen en route but then lacking nutrients that would be present if allowed to ripen on the vine.

While there are no formal rules governing what meals or foods can be called "farm to table," the movement generally holds that the distance food travels, including any processing, must be less than 400 miles from point of origin to end consumer.  

Resources for Organic & Locally Farmed Foods  

Find local and regional foods through Local Harvest or through Sustainable Table