In U.S., “Organic” Label on Fish Means Very Little

The “organic” label on some salmon in supermarkets these days doesn’t mean much. The National Organics Program of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which administers the official organic seal on produce and other foods, has not developed standards for fish. “We may someday address aquatic species. It just hasn’t happened,” says a USDA spokesperson. This means fish producers and supermarkets label fish based on their own standards — and the “organic” salmon they’re selling is, in fact, farm-raised. While it differs from standard farmed salmon in some ways, there’s no evidence that it contains lower levels of contaminants. Some stores refuse to use the label at all, pending official standards. The Whole Foods natural foods chain, for example, declared in a press release, “we believe that to represent such product as organic to our customers would undermine the integrity of the organic label.” In Europe, official standards for organic fish have been in place for five years; some stateside stores have begun importing it to offer customers a genuine organic alternative.