The U.S. Department of Agriculture, which administers the National Organics Program, has issued a clarification to certifying agencies about the use of the word “organic” in company or product brand names.
In its Aug. 14 memo, the USDA said that the term “organic” doesn’t necessarily imply that the product was grown or manufactured in accordance with the NOP and therefore isn’t a false or misleading statement.
At the same time, the agency said that growers, handlers and manufacturers cannot use labels or provide information that implies the products were produced or handled using organic methods if they were not.
The clarification also warned about overusing the term “organic” in brand and company names, especially if it could mislead buyers.
“The display of such company names should be reviewed in consideration of its potential to mislead consumers about the composition and organic certification of the product,” according to the memo. “Although this information is required by the FDA, it should not be displayed in a manner that falsely implies an agricultural product meets certification requirements that it does not.”
In addition, a brand or company name containing the word organic should not be used elsewhere on the label.
The USDA said it will continue to monitor the situation and review word usage on a case-by-case basis.