Organic food labeling: What consumers should be aware of

In 2010 food labeling will be subjected to major changes but in the meantime the Hellenic Food Authority (EFET) has dictated a number of requirements, including weight, expiry date, place of production and lot number. The labeling of most food products, both conventional and organic, must comply with these rules. So far, so good. However, consumers of organic products have to watch out for a number of other important details that make all the difference to what actually makes them different. The European Union has created a system of inspection and certification of organically farmed products implemented by all member states. So the packaging of these items, according to European legislation, also needs to state the way the items were produced, including the name of the firms that produce, package and distribute the product as well as the certification number. It also must distinguish between «organically farmed product» and «product of organic farming in transition» and the logo of the certification agency recognized by the Ministry of Agriculture. The label should also have a list of the ingredients in decreasing order of weight. As water is considered to be a natural ingredient of food it is not always mentioned unless it comprises more then 5 percent of the product’s weight or unless the law requires it for the particular product. Ingredients comprising less than 2 percent of the product do not need to be mentioned unless they are allergenic or additives. The European Union regulation (2092/91) allows additives (even preservatives) in organic food – the list of which excludes all those that have been linked with problems or which are suspect. For example, an organic food product could contain carbon dioxide, lecithin, citric acid, natural flavorings, water, salt or pectin, among other things. Also look out for the composition of the product. According to the regulations, at least 95 percent of agricultural products must be completely organic. Only non-organic ingredients mentioned in the aforesaid list are permitted and in quantities allowed by the Food and Drink Code. From the May issue of Kathimerini’s supplement ECO.