This topic page debunks myths around organic food and personal products, including fragrance.


Myth: Organics means organic

Status: Not true

Bottom line: If you want organic avoid organics

The US Department of Agriculture (or USDA) only legally enforces the use of the word “organic”, not the plural form organics (with an s at the end). The UDSA standard for organic content is called O95, meaning that 95% of the ingredients must meet the defined federal standard. If a product bears the USDA Organic logo on the front of the package, it must meet the O95 standard.

By comparison, “organics” meets no USDA standard and is not a legal term. It’s a marketing term, like “natural” or “fresh”. It conveys no information that is legally binding. If a product contains the word “organics” in the title or on the label, it might contain one or two organic ingredients or none at all.

A simple smell test will often reveal the difference. Products and food that contain heavy metals, pesticides and other harsh chemicals will often have a burnt or metallic smell, similar to fireworks smoke, or if it’s food a bitter aftertaste.

It’s important to note that “fragrance” an as ingredient cannot meet USDA organic standards because a labelled “fragrance” may contain 20 or 50 chemicals. If a product is truly organic, the label will show individual aromatic ingredients and certify that each was grown organically.


Myth: Wash for fruits and veggies removes pesticides

Status: Mostly not true

Bottom line: If you want organic buy USDA organic

Here’s a money-saving strategy: Buy produce that is not USDA certified organic and then remove all the pesticides and contaminants with a fruit & veggie wash. Right? Wrong.

Washing fruits and veggies removes superficial dirt and bacteria, like E. coli, that may be present on the skin. It may also remove some waxes that growers use to protect produce during transport. Peeling fruits and veggies has the same effect.

What veggie wash doesn’t do is remove pesticides, heavy metals and other industrial contaminants. These penetrate into the flesh of the food through the root system, which comes in direct contact with contaminated soil and water. There is no way to wash these chemicals off. That’s why clean soil is a critical component of USDA organic certification. Still, many argue that the USDA standard does not go far enough.


Myth: All ingredients in USDA organic products are organic

Status: Mostly true

Bottom line: There are at least 28 exceptions

The USDA allows at least 28 ingredients into organic certified food that are not organic. Not surprisingly the Organic Trade Association supports the list, while the Organic Consumers Association opposes the list. Here it is:

  1. Celery powder
  2. Sausage casings
  3. Chia
  4. Dillweed oil
  5. Fish oil
  6. Fish gelatin
  7. Fructo-oligosaacharides
  8. Frozen galangal
  9. Hops
  10. – 28. Colors

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