The EU organic seal

Anyone who pays attention to organic food when shopping in the EU   often has to fight their way through a jungle of quality seals and designations for organic or organic products without knowing what exactly is behind them. In July 2010, the EU introduced its own eco-seal in order to create clarity for consumers and uniformity on the European food market for organic products.

The eco-seal of the EU

The leaf formed from white stars on a green background is intended to identify foodstuffs that have been produced in accordance with an EC organic regulation. At some point, it is hoped, a large number of different eco-seals will disappear and only the EU seal will apply.

But that is not to be expected for the time being. Because the quality marks of cultivation associations and retail chains are now not only successful brands, but often also stand for more organic.

Eco and organic: Protected terms

The good news for all consumers is that if it says “eco” on it, it also says “eco”. As a term, just like “organic”, “organic” or “ecological” is protected by the EC Organic Regulation and may only be used if the product was made from 95 percent organic ingredients.

Food from “controlled cultivation”,  on the other hand, does not automatically comply with the EC Organic Regulation. The same applies to misleading terms such as “naturally fertilized”, “environmentally friendly” or “untreated”.

Variety of organic seals

Because designations alone do not always give an indication of whether a product is actually an organic product, customers should pay attention to the quality mark printed on it. A distinction is made between the seals of cultivation associations such as Bioland, Demeter or Biopark and the many organic own brands of supermarkets.

While the associations can be trusted that food comes exclusively from association members, the origin of ingredients in products with an organic brand can no longer be traced beyond a doubt. However, it is still guaranteed that such products were manufactured at least according to the EU organic guidelines.

Organic seal in Germany

In Germany alone there are well over 100 organic seals. In order to clear up this jungle of quality marks, in 2001 the consumer protection minister at the time, Renate Künast, introduced what is now the best-known German eco-seal: the honeycomb-shaped “Künast” seal from the state. Although it is the most used organic seal on the German market, it has not been able to displace other eco-labels and organic brands.

The reason for this is the much stricter requirements of cultivation associations and supermarket chains with regard to their ecological production. For example, most associations stipulate that the entire manufacturing company operates ecologically. In order to receive the EU seal, on the other hand, partial ecological management is sufficient. When it comes to animal welfare or animal feed production, associations often have higher standards than all the EU requirements require.

Strict controls on organic products

For growers’ associations and retailer chains, their seals have become an economic asset that consumers trust. In order not to damage brands and the association, much stricter controls are also carried out. In addition to the statutory inspections, associations also check the quality of their products within the association.

This measure also contributes to building trust, so it can be assumed that in the future, in addition to the EU organic seal, various logos will continue to be found on the products.

Origin of organic products

At least the origin of food ingredients is becoming at least a little more transparent. With the introduction of the new EU logo, labeling is now mandatory that provides information on whether a product comes completely, partially or not at all from the EU. Only if all the ingredients come from a single country can the country of origin be listed.

However, this is precisely what the consumer should keep an eye on. Because organic yoghurt with imported  milk  from France and fruit flown in from Spain is   not really ecological, even with species-appropriate animal husbandry and unsprayed fruit . In addition, food loses a not insignificant quality during long transport and harvesting when it is unripe.

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