I recently found out that USDA Certified Organic is not considered credible enough for many foreign markets. Foods exported as "organic" have to be certified by European guidelines for those markets.
Also, according to a recent article in the LA Times (June 9,2007), the USDA is considering allowing 38 additional non-organic ingredients to be used in organic prepared foods. And yes, the term "additional" was correct !
Under the agency's proposal, as much as 5% of a food product could be made with these ingredients and still get the "USDA organic" seal. Additionally, manufacturers can use nonorganic ingredients if organic versions are not "commercially available." That concerns me because the amount large companies demand can exceed the small supply of organic equivalents, and in turn, gain approval to use nonorganic ingredients.
For example, according to the LA Times article, Anheuser-Busch said it simply couldn't find enough organic hops for their Wild Hop Lager, made with 100% organic barley malt, but less than 10% of the hops they use is organic. It has the organic blessing from federal regulators, even though they use hops grown with chemical fertilizers and sprayed with pesticides. Because the beverage is mostly water, less than 5% of the final product is made from hops, a major component of beer's flavor. I guess it's okay if they "intended" to use organic . . .
So what's the point ??? To what degree is it organic ??? Is it acceptable to substitute ingredients and still claim the organic classification ???
Personally, I look for the term "certified naturally grown". That language is being used by the independent, local farmer because BIG businesses like Dole and others can afford to pay for the license agreement fee to be "organic" and they usually cannot.
For more information go to www.localharvest.com and do a little research on the subject.