USDA OrganicCurrently, the United States does not have a standard for defining organic honey. Without a definition, no honey produced in the USA can be certified organic by the United States government. If a honey contains a label with an organic certification, the agency that issued the certification can be contacted and the consumer can obtain the list of requirements upon which the certification was based. The consumer must, however, remember that since there is no definition for organic honey in the USA the validity of the organic seal is suspect.

In recent years, American consumers have made more health-conscious decisions about their foods.  Less sugar, lower salt, and lower fat formed the basis of this new direction in diet. This trend was followed by questioning ingredients, such as monosodium glutamate, corn syrup, sodium nitrates, and any number of preservatives. Increasingly savvy attention has been paid to ingredients that comprise the majority of our favorite foods. Shoppers are often seen pausing in the aisles of grocery stores to study the labels for the purpose of comparison.

One word consistently stands out for people who monitor their nutrition carefully–Organic. It is a much sought-after claim on a product’s label. What’s the big deal and why do many seek this type of food?

The United States Department of Agriculture has strict production and labeling requirements for a product to be called “organic.” Certified organic products are produced without “excluded methods,” such as genetic engineering or GMO’s. (Genetically modified organisms). In addition, antibiotics, hormones, pesticides, and irradiation are also excluded. In general, organic standards are designed to allow natural substances in organic farming while prohibiting synthetic substances. As a side note, organic farmers are required to adhere to certain soil and water conservation methods and to rules about the humane treatment of animals, which include organic animal diets, crop rotation, mulching, natural fertilizers and beneficial insects for pests.

With such strict standards in mind, the USDA certifies organic food products with four distinct labels: 100% Organic, Organic, Made with organic ___, and specific organic ingredients. (Organic labeled food requires that 95 to 99% of the ingredients meet the standard.)

For years, food producers have been concerned with one thought- sustainability.  The USDA’s main job is to promote and sustain industrial agriculture.  According to their guidelines, “organic” is different, not necessarily better. Thus, the USDA organic rules are about the letter of the law, not its spirit. Food marketers take advantage of the public perception that “organic” implies better nutrition, while selling junk food that has been organically produced and maintaining a higher price. (Obviously, the main point of organics has to do with production methods which require hand labor and careful management, both of which come at a higher cost.)

So, when a company markets a honey with “Organic” on the label, remember that this is about the production and not necessarily the nutrition. “Made with organic ___” products cannot use the USDA seal, but must identify the certifying agent somewhere on the label.  In addition, a honey-maker can use corn syrup and sugar in their product.  As long as the corn and sugar are organically produced, the honey-maker can use the organic label. However, and this is a major point, there are no standards for USDA certified organic honey. They do not exist. Much of the honey that bears the name “organic” is imported from Brazil, which uses standards similar to the EU. American honey-makers CAN get a certifier to label their product as organic, but the USDA will give no guidance as to criteria. Strange, right?

Organic Honey

Winter Park Honey produces all honey using organic standards.  Our honey is tested by an independent laboratory to ensure that it is pure, raw and chemical free.

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