Some organizations deal with food while others deal with personal care products. It is worth the effort to know the difference between definitions. For instance, “certified organic ingredients” has one meaning while the term, “natural” has an entirely different meaning.
Companies selling organic products cannot simply put the word, “organic,” on their product or label unless they have passed the requirements provided by the appropriate certification body. NSF certified organic means something very specific, and because of this, companies seek this label.
A food or other agricultural product deemed USDA organic is produced through approved methods by a USDA-accredited certifying agent .
NSF Organic Certification
The National Organic Program (NOP) is a regulatory program housed within the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service. They are responsible for developing national organic agricultural products. These standards assure consumers that certified organic ingredients that exhibit the USDA organic seal meet consistent, uniform criteria. However, their regulations do not address food safety or nutrition .
Organic ingredients may vary from one country to the next, but there are regulations governing how to grow produce and handle crops and livestock. This includes the processing of these plants and animals to ensure that there is no unlawful processing, use of genetically modified organisms or presence of contaminants. An NSF certified organic product ensures that the ingredients used have passed the strict requirements of the National Safety Foundation .
NSF Organic Certification Requirements
The USDA National Organic Program, or NOP, is the agency responsible for establishing regulations for organic agricultural products imported for sale or produced in the United States. Labeling requirements for the USDA National are usually based on the number of organic ingredients composing the product. The NSF also facilitates the development of the standards for potable water.
For a product to be labeled as USDA certified organic, it must meet the strict guidelines of the NSF Organic Standard:
- Products labeled “100% Organic” are made from organic ingredients and processing aids with the exception of water and salt. They must not contain any other ingredients or additives.
- Products that exhibit the label, “Organic”, contain 95% organically produced ingredients. The 5% can be composed of non-agricultural substances as long as they are included in the list of “Allowed” set by the National Organic Program. This is the requirement for an organic label.
- Products labeled as “Made with Organic Ingredients” need to have about 70% organic ingredients. There should be a list of up to three organic ingredients or food groups printed on the display panel.
- The term, “Natural Organic”, does not have a formal definition according to the USDA. The term natural does not mean organic. There are no guarantees. Many products labeled natural may start with products that are natural, but these may lose many of their natural properties through processing.
- Personal products such as cosmetics, lotions and products for hygiene may add “contains organic ingredients” as long as they comply with NSF/ANSI 305. The NOP requires all organic labels to specify the ingredients that are used .
National Safety Foundation (NSF)
The National Safety Foundation (NSF) was created in 1944 with the goal of protecting and improving human health across the globe. Manufacturers, consumers and regulators rely on the NSF to develop standards for public health and certifications to ensure that food, water and other consumer products are safe for both the consumer and the environment. NSF offers a third-party certification that is often used by companies to get the NSF mark .
Why was the NSF formed?
The NSF is an accredited organization whose primary role is to test, audit and certify products and systems. It also provides education and risk management for companies and consumers. This way, people feel more confident buying products knowing that the NSF label is a guarantee that the item is made from organic certified ingredients.
The full responsibilities of the NSF
The responsibilities of NSF include testing, certification and technical services including risk assessments for human health. The National Safety Foundation is made up of engineers, toxicologists, public health experts, microbiologists, chemists and certification specialists around the world. They are the ones who provide media interviews, conferences in schools and organizational events to discuss topics related to public health.
The NSF also conducts surprise on-site inspections in companies that have paid to have their businesses tested. This ensures that companies and restaurants keep up with sanitary and safety requirements regularly.
The cost of a certification test
For restaurants and companies dealing with food and cosmetics, getting NSF organic certification is worth the cost of paying for the test. The NSF organic standard test costs $1,500, and many companies are willing to dish out the money to ensure that their equipment, organic ingredients and products have met the requirements. To determine if equipment has been checked or passed by the certification bodies, look for the NSF label. This ensures that it has been inspected and passed the requirements.
Companies in the food business are more than willing to pay the cost of NSF organic standard to meet the safety requirements for their industry. For them, selling organic products that carry the symbol of NSF guarantees that their products include all organic ingredients with minimal processing.
NSF certification ensures certain things:
- Products have already passed several NSF testing for design, material safety, product performance and construction.
- Products are safe for commercial dishwasher use, durable and withstand heat.
- The NSF label indicates that manufacturers that are part of the foodservice industry make use of raw materials that have been FDA approved.
- A product with the NSF mark ensures that the design of the product itself will not cause bacteria to thrive.
Are NSF Certifications Required?
An NSF organic certification is required to label a product or machine NSF certified organic. Since the National Safety Foundation is one of the certifying bodies that helps companies and consumers meet safety requirements, having food or skincare products or equipment certified ensures that they are safe to be consumed or used. Getting USDA organic certification raises the bar for businesses as it means that this company makes its customers’ safety and health a priority. This is not limited to the equipment being used in the processing ground of a company. It also covers drinking water filters in restaurants and food service establishments. Getting a product certification with an organic label means that the product has met the set standards of NSF. It also provides customers with better options when shopping because the food being purchased is made from organic ingredients.
The Organic Industry
Here are some other labels of which you should be aware:
The Biodegradable Products Institute awards this label to products that are genuinely compostable. This makes it easier for consumers, composters, waste haulers and officials to recognize materials that are truly compostable .
The Leaping Bunny logo is the only internationally recognized symbol guaranteeing consumers proper animal welfare was abided by in the development of any product displaying it. The label can be seen on packaging, advertising and websites for skin care and household products around the world .
Natural Products Association
The NPA is the leading trade association for natural personal care and home products, medical and functional foods, probiotics, dietary supplements and probiotics.
This organization focuses on sustainability and the promotion of organic products. The focus is on values, education and advocating for the planet and the people who live on it. Oregon Tilth looks at the overall supply chain .
Why Get NSF Certified?
NSF organic certification separates products made from pure, organic materials from those who claim that they are made from organic products. This prevents misbranding. There have been many contestations between brands with regards to products bearing organic labels.
The presence of the NSF mark means that the company has undergone regular testing and it has met the strict requirements of an independent body. NSF is not limited to food these days as they are now accepting testing of cosmetics. With the rising demand for organic products, many brands that claim that they are using organic ingredients in their products may not meet the standards of NSF. As a consumer, get the best value for your money by looking for an NSF mark. On organic cosmetics, this mark guarantees that the ingredients listed in the box have been tested and meet the standards of NSF. Cosmetic companies are seeing the value of getting certified because they set themselves apart from other companies.
It is understandable that paying for the cost of the test may be a bit steep for those in the food industry. Seeing this mark on equipment and in a business means that the safety standards of the National Safety Foundation have been met. Regardless of whether it is a local company or sourcing ingredients from other countries, getting the NSF organic certification means that the business has been visited, tested and passed the strict requirements of the independent certifying body.
It is important for consumers to have at least a minimal understanding of what a USDA seal or other various certifications mean. Natural and organic have two very different meanings. Understanding the scope of National Safety Foundation and its role in the safety and health of customers and companies alike helps promote a healthier environment for everyone across the globe.
NSF Organic Certification Resources:
 United States Department of Agriculture; Organic Standards.
 United States Department of Agriculture; Organic Standards.
 National Sanitation Foundation; Organic.
 National Sanitation Foundation; Organic Labeling.
 National Sanitation Foundation; Organic.
 Biodegradable Products Institute; The Compostable Logo.
 Leaping Bunny Program; The Leaping Bunny Logo.
 Oregon Tilth.