Organic food sales are growing by about 20 percent a year and are expected to surpass $11 billion this year in the United States. Projected annual U.S. sales of organic foods: $11 billion in 2002; $20 billion in 2005.
Beginning Oct. 21, foods certified as at least 95 percent organic - that is, produced without most pesticides, toxic fertilizers, growth hormones and antibiotics - can carry an official "USDA organic" seal.
The national standards replace what had been a mishmash of certification systems run by individual states and private groups. The seal will act as a safeguard against creatively worded packages that identify a product as organic when only a few ingredients are.
Under the new rules, food will be labeled in one of four categories: Food that is 100 percent organic may carry the new "USDA organic" label and say "100% organic." Food that is at least 95 percent organic may carry the new seal. Food that is at least 70 percent organic will list the organic ingredients on the front of the package. If a product is less than 70 percent organic, the organic ingredients may be listed on the side of the package but cannot say "organic" on the front.