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How to Spot Fake Organic Groceries

You’ve probably heard that there are several products out there that are being advertised as “organic” when they are not truly organic. Before spending those extra bucks on “organic” food, you should know more about what organic really means and how to know you’re buying a real organic product.

What does organic really mean?

Organic products are grown with fewer pesticides and harmful fertilizers or livestock (meat or poultry) raised without the use of drugs, hormones, or synthetic chemicals.

In the United States, a product is considered legally organic when:

  • The product bears the USDA Organic Seal.
  • The product has been certified organic.
  • The product contains 95% or more organic ingredients.

There is an exception to the above three rules. Because it’s so expensive to obtain organic certification, there are some uncertified farmers out there that do grow completely organic crops. You might find some of these are your local farmer’s market.

Read your labels

In the United States, real certified organic products are certified by a certifying agent and are allowed to wear the USDA Organic Seal. The organic seal is the label you see to the left and it’s usually green, though sometimes you’ll see it in black. The color makes no difference – black or green, it’s still certified organic.

If a company uses the organic label and their product is not really organic and the National Organic Program (NOP) finds out, the company can be fined as much as $11,000.

What does the organic seal mean?


If a product has the organic seal on it, the product contains 95% to 100% organic ingredients. If a product contains less than 95% organic ingredients, the NOP doesn’t allow that product to wear the seal.

Apart from the organic seal, you may also see organic wording on a product. For example, a 100% certified organic product may have “100% Organic” written on their packaging. A product that contains just 95% organic ingredients can say, “Organic” on the packaging.

If you see a product with packaging wording that states, “Made With Organic Ingredients,” then the product contains at least 70% organic ingredients.

Be aware that many companies will try to trick consumers by placing look-alike labels on packaging or tricky wording, so don’t get fooled.


Check the PLU code.


When shopping for organic groceries, you might have trouble finding the organic seal. If this is the case, you can also take a look at the PLU codes (numbers) on product stickers.

PLU codes are the little codes on stickers that are scanned when you buy your groceries. These PLU codes are identification numbers for products and organic PLU codes are different than conventional codes.

If a product is organic, the code will start with the number 9 and is followed by four more numbers. If the product is not organic, its PLU code will be a 4 digit number that starts with the number 4.

Trying to make out the difference between true and fake organic can be a very daunting task and often misleading because appearance wise, there is no way to tell. Use the above tips and whenever in doubt, double check with a store employee.

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Viance Nutrition

Hi! I'm Walt Landi the founder and CEO of Viance Nutrition. Welcome to our Blog. I maintain this Blog as a free resource for anyone wishing to improve their health. Your comments and feedback are always welcomed and you can email me direct at if you have any suggestions. Thanks. Ps. Spread the word and check out our products at :)

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