Understanding the Bio label

Bio label next to food
Bio label next to food

Understanding the Bio label

by WIC Overseas
Stripes Europe

If you shop on the German economy, you may have noticed the “Bio” symbol on some products. This label simply means that the product is organic. Some farmers in Germany started using organic style agricultural method in the late-1920s. In 1991, the European Union adopted regulations on the organic production of agricultural products. In 1999, the rules were extended to cover organic livestock production.

As in the U.S., all farms growing fruits, grains and vegetables to be labeled organic must be certified organic by a certifying agency. For agricultural products and livestock, “bio” means that the item was grown/raised following the rules of the EU Regulation on Organic Farming. For processed foods, such as crackers, “bio” on the label guarantees that at least 95% of the ingredients of agricultural origin come from organic farming. Genetically modified food products are not allowed to use this label. The organic regulations also forbid the use of many food additives.

The EU Regulation on Organic Farming protects terms such as:
• “bio/eco” (Bio/Öko)
• “organic/ecological” (biologisch/ökologisch)
• “controlled ecological/organic” (kontrolliert ökologisch/biologisch)
• “organic/ecological farming” (biologischer/ ökologischer Landbau)
• “organic-dynamic” (biologisch-dynamisch)
• “biological-organic” (biologisch-organisch)

As in the States, there are some misleading terms printed on food packages to make you think the product is organic. These phrases include:
• “from controlled farming” (aus kontrolliertem Anbau)
• “from state-approved farms” (von staalich anerkanneten Bauernhöfen)
• “under independent control” (unter unabhängiger Kontrolle)
• “not treated” (ungespritzt)
• “without crop protection sprays” (ohne Spritzmittel)
• “from integrated agriculture” (aus integrierter Landwirtschaft)
• “from contractual farming” (aus Vertragsanbau)
• “from alternative animal husbandry” (aus alternativer Haltung)
• “from environmentally sound farming” (aus umweltschonendem Anbau)

These terms do not mean that the products are of organic origin. If the terms “naturally pure” (naturrein) or “natural” (natürlich) are used, this means that the products neither additives nor residues of crop protection products or animal pharmaceuticals and that they have no been irradiated (to expose food to electromagnetic radiation to kill bacteria and delay spoilage). However, this does not mean that they were grown organically. German grocers have their own organic food brands which they advertise. These include, e.g., “Alnatura,” “Bio aus ökologischer Erzeugung” (Bio from organic farming), “BioBio,” “Naturkind,” “Bio Wertkost,” “Füllhorn” or “Naturkost Grünes Land.”

Jenny Dietrich, Brend Dietrich and Sandra Erb contributed to this article.

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