Alert
Close

Top the Treasure Hunt leaderboard by 5 p.m. Friday to win a $100 gift card! Learn more

Highlights

Open

SEARCH RECIPES

Enter an ingredient, course or keyword and get cooking!

 

AARP Real Possibilities

 

FREE FUN!

AARP Games - Play Now!
Car buying made easy with the AARP Auto Buying Program

Contests and
Sweeps

Safe Driving in 2014 Sweepstakes

Learn how AARP Driver Safety can help you stay safe—and enter for a chance to win $1,000. See official rules. 

most popular
articles

Viewed

Ask Sid

How Do I Know If It’s Really Organic?

Understanding labels and the origin of your food can prove it's the real deal

En español | Q. How can I be sure that those more expensive “organic” foods are the real deal?

A. On loose fruits and vegetables, look at the Price Look Up (PLU) sticker. If the produce is organic, the code will contain five-digits beginning with 9. Non-organic counterparts will have four digits. (Example: Organically grown bananas will be 94011, compared to 4011 for those treated with chemicals and pesticides.) A five-digit PLU beginning with 8 means the item is genetically modified, which some research indicates may pose health risks.

To bear the green-and-white “USDA Organic” seal, packaged organics must be certified by any of the 50 USDA-accredited certified agents and contain at least 95 percent organically produced ingredients (excluding water and salt). Those with at least 70 percent organically produced ingredients may use the words “made with organic ingredients” but cannot have the green-and-white USDA seal. Some may have labels with a different color combination. Mislabeling can result in fines of up to $11,000 per violation.

At farmers stands and markets, where organics may cost less because of low shipping costs and no middlemen, it can be trickier to vet what you’re getting – especially when they lack PLU stickers.

Under the USDA’s National Organic Program, farmers who market their products as "organic" also must – or at least should – have their wares certified by a USDA-accredited agent (or face fines if caught). If it’s touted as “certified,” you can ask to see a copy of the organic certification paperwork. Vendors are supposed to have it on-hand.

Some farmers use legitimate organic growing practices but choose not to enter the certification process. Those earning less than $5,000 a year selling at booths are exempt. So even if not touted as “certified,” you should feel free to ask, "How was this food grown?" and let the answer guide your choice to buy.

Also of interest: 'Tis the season for the farmers market.

Topic Alerts

You can get weekly email alerts on the topics below. Just click “Follow.”

Manage Alerts

Processing

Please wait...

progress bar, please wait

Related Video

Either the video service is temporarily unavailable or the requested video could not be retrieved. We apologize for the inconvenience.

Tell Us WhatYou Think

Please leave your comment below.

Discounts & Benefits

From companies that meet the high standards of service and quality set by AARP.

Pepperoni Pizza, Papa Johns Superbowl promotion for AARP members

Members receive 25% off regular price menu items at Papa John's

Outback Steak

Members save 15% Mon-Thurs & during weekend lunch at Outback Steakhouse.

McCormick and Schmicks (McCormick and Schmicks)

Members save 10% every day when dining at McCormick and Schmick's.

Member Benefits

Join or renew today! Members receive exclusive member benefits & affect social change.