The global demand for organic food products is on the rise as more people become increasingly concerned about the potential risks posed by chemicals, hormones, and other synthetic-based products. Organic foods, which are typically grown without the use of pesticides, herbicides, chemicals, or growth hormones, are becoming more appealing to consumers. By consuming organic foods, you can be assured that you are consuming natural, synthetic-free products.

The USDA established the National Organic Program (NOP) to ensure consistency in the labeling of organic products. The NOP is responsible for enforcing the regulatory framework for national organic regulations, which cover all aspects of food production, processing, delivery, and sale. The USDA recognizes three levels of organic foods:

100% Organic – This refers to products that are made using only certified organic ingredients and production methods.

Organic – Products that contain a minimum of 95% organic ingredients.

Made with organic ingredients – Products that contain at least 70% organic ingredients.

The USDA Organic label can only be displayed on food products that are categorized as 100% Organic or Organic (95%).

Regulations governing the use of ingredients in organic food products can be complex and dispersed across various sources. While ozone may be permitted for certain organic applications, it may not be allowed for others. The specific regulations can be challenging to locate, as they are not always consolidated in a single location. The following are some resources in the organic registry where information on the use of ozone is provided.


Ozone as an Ingredient

Organic foods cannot maintain a 100% organic rating if ozone is used as an ingredient. They can only receive an “Organic” or “Made with organic ingredients” label.

This information can be located in CFR 205.605 in the following:

Text from CFR 205.605:

§ 205.605 Nonagricultural (nonorganic) substances allowed as ingredients in or on processed products labeled as “organic” or “made with organic (specified ingredients or food group(s)).”

The use of non-agricultural substances as ingredients in processed products labeled as “organic” or “made with organic (specified ingredients or food group(s))” is permitted only if in compliance with the restrictions outlined in this section.


Ozone for Crops

According to regulations, ozone is classified as a synthetic substance and is therefore regulated as such in crop production. However, ozone is allowed for cleaning irrigation systems, and if used solely for this purpose, crops will maintain their 100% organic rating.

This information can be located in CFR 205.601 in the following:

§ 205.601 Synthetic substances allowed for use in organic crop production.

In accordance with restrictions specified in this section, the following synthetic substances may be used in organic crop production: Provided that, use of such substances do not contribute to contamination of crops, soil, or water. Substances allowed by this section, except disinfectants and sanitizers in paragraph (a) and those substances in paragraphs (c), (j), (k), and (l) of this section, may only be used when the provisions set forth in §205.206(a) through (d) prove insufficient to prevent or control the target pest.

Ozone gas—for use as an irrigation system cleaner only.

Ozone for Surface Disinfection

The use of ozone for surface sanitation on food contact surfaces is permitted in food processing, distribution, and retail centers according to CRF 205.605. However, further clarification can be found in the following document:

USDA wording from The USDA National Organic Program Requirements for Food Retailers and Distribution Centers:

The regulations identify some chlorine materials that may be used to sanitize food-contact surfaces, including calcium hypochlorite, chlorine dioxide, and sodium hypochlorite; hydrogen peroxide and ozone are also permitted. See 7 C.F.R. 205.605.

Currently, the NOP regulations only allow for limited use of ozone in organic food production, and the USDA and NOP have not given ozone the same level of approval as it has in other food processing environments. While ozone has been granted Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) approval for direct contact with food by both the USDA and FDA, its use in organic food production remains restricted.

We remain optimistic that the USDA will expand the use of ozone in organic applications in the future. As ozone is derived from oxygen and reverts to oxygen after eliminating harmful pathogens, we believe it should play a more significant role in ensuring the production of safe and 100% organic foods.