Processed organic food usually contains only organic ingredients. If non-organic ingredients are present, at least 95 percentage of the food’s total plant and animal ingredients must be organic. Foods claiming to be organic must be free of artificial food additives, and are often processed with fewer artificial methods, materials and conditions, such as chemical ripening, food irradiation, and genetically modified ingredients.
They may also be required to be produced using energy-saving technologies and packaged using recyclable or biodegradable materials when possible.
Early consumers interested in organic food should look for non-chemically treated, fresh or minimally processed food. You mostly have to buy directly from growers: “Know your farmer, know your food” was the motto. Personal definitions of what constituted “organic” were developed through firsthand experience: by talking to farmers, seeing farm conditions, and farming activities. Small farms grew vegetables (and raised livestock) using organic farming practices, with or without certification, and the individual consumer monitored. As demand for organic foods continued to increase, high volume sales through mass outlets such as supermarkets rapidly replaced the direct farmer connection. However, for supermarket consumers, food production is not easily observable, and product labeling, like “certified organic”, is relied on. Government regulations and third-party inspectors are looked to for assurance. A “certified organic” label is usually the only way for consumers to know that a processed product is “organic”.