What Does It Mean to be USDA Certified?
Being USDA certified organic isn’t for every grower, food processor or commercial kitchen. That said, it’s becoming more and more expected by the people who buy products from these organizations, so it might be something to look into.
Just what does being certified organic by the United States Department of Agriculture actually mean? For one thing, it demonstrates that the outfits being certified are willing to jump through a few hoops once they’ve decided it’s worth the trouble.
The goal of going through the process is to earn the right to use the USDA certified organic seal and display the USDA certified organic logo on products. In this way, meeting grower, food processor and USDA certified kitchen requirements visibly sets businesses apart from the competition.
What is organic?
In the USDA’s view, food products are organic if these statements are true:
- The products have been produced without using most pesticides.
- Fertilizers that contain synthetic elements or sewage sludge have not been used.
- For poultry, meat, dairy products and eggs, no growth hormones or antibiotics have been used.
- Bioengineering or ionizing radiation have not played a part.
- Future environmental quality has been ensured through use of renewable resources and conservation.
Further, there a levels of organic, and labeling must conform to the right category. For example:
- “100% organic” means that both ingredients and processing procedures are 100% organic
- “Organic” means that of the ingredients used, at least 95% are organic. Any other ingredients must be USDA-approved.
The steps to organic certification
Achieving certification is definitely a process. The steps include:
- Adopting organic practices
- Writing up a plan for organic operations
- Selecting a USDA-accredited certifying agent
- Submitting an application and paying fees
- Going through an on-site inspection
- Sitting your thumbs for a few weeks or months while the certifying agent reviews the application and the inspector’s report
- And, at long last, receiving certification
It sounds like a lot because it is. And, to maintain the integrity of the USDA certified organic seal, it should be.
The process: a few helpful details
To make things seem at least a bit simpler, the road to organic certification can be broken down into five major segments:
- Put together a plan. This had better be good. The “organic system plan” is the basis on which a successful certification process is built. It tells the inspector and the certifying agent how the operation will meet applicable regulations. It includes every aspect of the operation and how it keeps non-organic substances and substances prohibited by the USDA from getting in.
- Put the plan into action. But first, have a certifying agent review the plan. This can save a lot of time a trouble. You can find a certifying agent through the USDA. There’s a list on the website.
- Get inspected. Once the operation is running to your satisfaction, request an inspection. It won’t be a quick look-over. The inspector will give your operation the complete physical, looking in places you might not know you have places. It’s smart to make sure you’ve followed your plan to the last dotted “i” and crossed “t.”
- Get the inspection inspected. This puts things squarely in the certifying agent’s corner. The inspector presents the report to the agent and the agent decides whether it meets the requirements of the plan and all the pertinent regulations. A fine-toothed comb might be involved.
- Position thumbs and have a seat. If you’ve complied with your plan and all the regulations, you’ll be certified organic. But you’re not off the hook. You can expect inspections at least once a year.
Ensuring an organic operation
It should be clear by now that one very important factor in establishing a compliant organic business is the choice of equipment. So it’s a good idea to ask your equipment supplier about how it can help you meet the requirements. For example, you should talk to manufacturers such as CinchSeal, makers of rotary shaft seals, to learn how the equipment they make protects your products from contamination.
USDA Dairy Certified
Typical, dairy sealing applications pose many challenging requirements related to hygiene and reliable sealing.
From a sealing designer’s point of view, the implementation of an effective hygienic seal begins with the right choice of sealing material and the specific design which is easy to clean reliably.
An effective diary industry sealing material needs to demonstrate a broad chemical compatibility profile, compatible with virtually all process media and able to withstand cleaning regimes and sterilization practices including solvents, steams and amines.
Our USDA Diary Certified seals demonstrate:
- Reduced process contamination
- Reduced equipment downtime
- Increased seal lifetime
- Extended equipment planned maintenance interval
In general the use of shaft contact seals in Diary applications can further complicate matters, whereby the seal running surface is in contact with, and runs against the shaft, causing friction. The friction generated has several potentially detrimental effects, including:
- The seal can wear down the shaft, leading to shaft damage requiring expensive repair or replacement
- The seal contact face experiences wear, leading to seal failure and replacement
- Worn sealing materials can migrate into the process media, resulting in process contamination
- The frictional heat generated can damage the process media
Unlike packing or lip seals the Cinchseal’s can handle large shaft runouts as the seal internals rotate along with the shaft. This allows for better and consistent sealing thereby eliminating food/product leakages common to packing and lip seals that are not tolerant to dynamic shaft runouts.
Also, as the seal internals of the Cinchseal rotate along with the shaft the possibility of food contaminants scratching, damaging or wearing the shaft are minimal. All of this provides a more sanitary and repeatable seal assembly.
Simplify the seal repair and replacement process by choosing a seal design requiring no major machine disassembly, saving time and resources and getting your process line operational much more quickly.
Since 1994, CinchSeal has been a major manufacturer or rotary shaft seals for screw conveyors, ribbon blenders and all kinds of bulk handling equipment. CinchSeal products serve as replacements and major upgrades that make the need for machine replacement less likely.
More information is available by contacting CinchSeal. Quotes and drawings are guaranteed to be available in 24 hours. Custom engineering usually takes 10 days.