The word or label “organic” is the only one of those food marketing terms that by law has a specific meaning and defined usage. It is the only one of those food marketing terms that has teeth. If a food is labeled “organic” there are some things, by law, you should be able to assume:
- the food was grown without synthetic fertilizers, synthetic pesticides, or sewage sludge
- those crops cannot have been genetically engineered or irradiated
- any facility coming in contact with that organic food follows strict guidelines on storage, cleanliness, sanitation, handling, other materials that may come in contact with the organic food (e.g. only approved cleaning products) etc.
- and perhaps most importantly there is a complete paper trail of that crop from the field and seed to the final consumer product. This includes a complete unbroken train of paperwork, encompassing multiple inspections, certifications, documentation of that product to ensure that every step of the way it has complied with the legally mandated organic standards and practices. In other words, you are able to trace an individual product all the way back to its very origins; with inspections and documentation all along the way.
So when TeaSource labels a tea organic, that means:
- TeaSource has a complete paper trail following that tea back to its origins: that certifies and documents that any entity (including the grower, the shipper, importers, etc.) responsible for that tea has been certified and inspected as a certified approved organic facility, and is strictly following organic standards and practices.
- the main TeaSource warehouse in Roseville, MN, goes through an extremely thorough annual inspection by federally approved organic certifiers. In our case it is the Minnesota Crop Improvement Association.
- TeaSource has a very detailed, documented and approved handling and tracking process for organic teas, which is very strictly adhered to. And then all that paperwork is inspected, annually, sheet by sheet, to make sure we are following are the rules.
- within our warehouse the organic products are stored only in segregated/approved organic storage/holding locations.
- within our warehouse the organic teas are opened, handled, blended, and packaged only in a specific approved manner and areas, so they never come in contact with other non-organic items (for instance non-approved cleaners), or even in contact with other teas that are not certified organic. This is one reason we can no longer weigh out organic tea bulk in the stores. We are required to weigh and package all organics only in our approved warehouse. We are not allowed to weigh them out to order in the retail stores and still call them “organic.”
- every single package of TeaSource organic tea, is individually marked with the date that tea was packaged at TeaSource and a code number that gives us the history/traceability of that tea.
- every package of TeaSource organic tea also specifies who has certified (and inspected) TeaSource.
TeaSource is proud to support the USDA organics programs. Yes, it’s a lot more paperwork and hassle for us, but we don’t mind (too much), because that’s the only way the program can have some teeth and integrity.