Organic Certifications Explained
by Katherine Ploeger
The USDA certifies companies producing organic foods in the United States, as well
as checks on agencies internationally that also do this certification.

Their mission statement says, "The National Organic Program (NOP) develops,
implements, and administers national production, handling, and labeling standards for
organic agricultural products. The NOP also accredits the certifying agents (foreign
and domestic) who inspect organic production and handling operations to certify that
they meet USDA standards." (You can find more information on the USDA website.)
Their logo is a circle with "USDA Organic" in green and white.

FAIR TRADE CERTIFIED

Among the many brands and producers of organic dark chocolate, you'll find that
some are "Fair Trade Certified." Why is this certification important? Fair Trade means
that everyone benefits from the whole process, from the farmers and workers to the
environment.

Back in the Dark Ages of chocolate growing and production (think 20th century and
before), small cocoa farmers dealt with local middlemen who cheated them out of
their proper selling price and profits. Some companies used slave labor to bring the
crop in and process the food.

A private, international organization called TransFairUSA, out of Oakland, CA, in 2002
began certifying companies involved in the production of organic food products,
including organic dark chocolate.

According to their website, their "certification ensures that cocoa farmers receive a
fair price for their harvest, creates direct trade links between farmer-owned
cooperatives and buyers, and provides access to affordable credit." The certification
also ensures that slave labor is not used and that the working conditions for the
workers, including wages, is fair and humane.

Their website tells stories of how this certification has made living conditions for the
workers much better, including building schools, providing fair wages, and so on.

If you want more information, check out a great website sponsored by University of
California San Diego called "
," which discusses the slave-labor
aspect of chocolate production. It offers a wonderful table of information listing many
companies and their information.

In addition, the Fair Trade Federation, out of Washington, D.C., also offers a wealth
of information about Fair Trade companies and practices. Its "
"
dispels many common, and wrong, beliefs about fair trade practices.

QUALITY ASSURANCE INTERNATIONAL

A private organization that certifies organic food products is the QAI, headquartered
in San Diego, CA. Their task is to "certify every step of the organic chain," which
starts with the land on which the products are grown and takes the inspection
through harvesting, production, processing, and distribution.

The company certifies both U.S. and international companies, as well as educates the
public and officials about issues concerning organic foods. Their website has a full
"FAQs" section with much useful information.

CONCLUSION

Buying organic dark chocolate, or other products, certified as organic and from a fair
trade company will assure you are supporting companies and people who are doing
well for the people involved and the planet. And enjoy your organic dark chocolate.


About The Author

Katherine Ploeger, M.A., M.F.A., is a full time writer, writing coach & consultant. She is
also a new convert to organic foods. Her curiosity about what the certifications for
organic foods led to her research and writing of this article. More articles about dark
chocolate are available at
.  
When you see that organic label on a
food package, do you wonder what it
means? Here is a brief look of three
certifications most commonly used
with organic foods, especially dark
chocolate.

USDA ORGANIC CERTIFIED

The United States Department of
Agriculture (USDA) certifies the
quality of many types of foods,
including organic dark chocolate
through their National Organic
Program (NOP).
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These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The content on
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