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Retail Labeling Guide

Guide for developing retail labels.

Can I certify a single department/menu item?

Yes you can. Retail stores are often certified by department, such as produce, meat, bulk foods, prepared foods, etc. Any or all departments can be certified.

Do retailers have to be certified?

No, retail stores are not required to be certified. But they can choose to be in order to provide assurance to customers and go the extra mile to ensure that organic product integrity is maintained.

I handle both organic and conventional products at my store/restaurant, can I still be certified?

Yes you can. You will need to maintain the organic integrity of the ingredients and products by preventing commingling and contamination of organic products with any prohibited materials, such as sanitizers, pesticides, and non-organic products or ingredients. Additionally, you will need to clearly distinguish organic products from non-organic products to provide accurate information to your customers via labeling or signage.

I have a restaurant and I buy a lot of certified organic ingredients. Can my menu identify these items as organic without being certified?

Yes, restaurants are considered retail food establishments and are excluded from certification, but can identify products on their menus as organic without certification. Restaurants must prevent commingling or contamination of organic product/ingredients with prohibited materials, such as sanitizers, pest control materials, and non-organic ingredients. Additionally, restaurants need to comply with applicable labeling requirements by clearly indicating the organic or non-organic items on their menu and in any consumer information.

If I buy certified organic coffee beans from a local certified coffee roaster, how can I label the bulk bins which are used to sell the coffee?

When displaying bulk products that are certified "100% organic" or "organic" food in self-service bins or creating other product displays, you may post signs that provide the same information as listed on the original container or shipping documents. For example, your display, labeling, and display containers may use the USDA “organic” seal and the certifying agent’s mark, logo, or seal.

We purchase an organic product from a small local producer who is exempt (less than $5,000 sales) from certification. How can we label the product on our shelf tags?

If you buy product from a small-scale organic producer who is exempt from certification, you may identify this product as "organic." But you may not identify this product as being "certified organic" and you may not display the seal, logo, or other identifying mark of a certifying agent; nor may you display the USDA “organic” seal in conjunction with this product.

What are the benefits of organic certification for retail stores?

The main benefit of organic certification for retail food stores is bringing confidence to consumers that the organic integrity of the products they buy extend from the seeds used to grow their food to their shopping basket. Consumers want to know the store where they shop cares enough to go the extra mile to provide them that assurance of organic integrity.

What sort of records should retailers maintain to demonstrate compliance with the regulations?

Although retailers are exempt from the requirement of being certified, they must still keep sufficient records demonstrating compliance to the standards. Records should include date of purchase, source, quantities, and organic certificates listing the specifics for organic products you purchase. Records should also include documentation of methods used for prevention of commingling and contact with prohibited substances, such as sanitizers, pest control materials, and non-organic products. Records are very important if the organic status of a product sold by you is ever questioned.

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