22 Aug Faking “The Big O” (We Meant Organic… What Were You Thinking?)
“We serve organic produce when possible”; “planning to eliminate artificial substances from our menu…”
For health-conscious people, “when possible” just doesn´t cut it.
“It´s as if you went to your dentist and told him: I wash my teeth whenever possible,” says Moises Tussie, Manager at Fresh Break, Florida´s first fast-casual USDA-certified organic restaurant.
“If you don´t want pesticides in your food, you don´t want them. Period. Eating organic is not just a fad: it´s a way of life”.
Even so, phrases such as these have been popping up on menus and signs on restaurant walls for the last couple of years.
So, how can consumers tell the difference between a real organic restaurant and one that is faking it?
The shocking truth is, there´s nothing to stop a restaurant from mixing non-organic, low-quality ingredients and GMOs with organic products while waving the “organic” flag.
So when Moises and his partners decided to open Fresh Break, there was no question in their minds: “We had to obtain a USDA Organic Certification.”
The USDA Organic Certification is not a requirement for restaurants. Certification agencies receive hundreds of inquiries every year, but just a handful of restaurants go through with the certification process. It´s just too rigorous.
However, a mere six weeks after Fresh Break´s opening, it received the certification.
“We couldn´t be more pleased,” said Tussie. “Not just for ourselves, but for our customers. It´s the only way we could look them in the eye and say: we serve organic”.
Reasons to eat at a USDA-certified Organic restaurant:
- The statements on the restaurant´s menu were verified by an independent party
- The restaurant has gone through a very strict process, which was in part established to prevent greenwashing
- The restaurant is leading by example and taking transparency to the next level
- 95 percent or more of their menu´s ingredients come from certified organic growers and farmers
- Eating organically grown foods is the only way to avoid the cocktail of chemical poisons present in commercially grown food
- Even the cleaning products and pest-control substances used on the premises have are compliant and non-toxic
So how does a restaurant get certified?
Obtaining and maintaining organic certification is an ongoing process.
It starts when an operation creates and implements an Organic System Plan, which is reviewed and inspected by an accredited organic certifier every year.
The certification process usually includes the following:
- An Organic System Plan. Restaurants must create and submit an Organic System Plan, describing their production practices. They should comply with USDA Organic Regulations.
- The certifying agency considers the Organic System Plan application and determines if it demonstrates the ability to meet regulations. The restaurant must even keep records of its providers, to ensure that they, too, have been certified.
- Inspections. Certifying agents visit the site to observe the operation. The review also looks for elements that may put the organic integrity at risk, such as commingling of organic and non-organic ingredients.
The organic certification is an ongoing process and not a single event. Thus, certified operations must update their systems when there are changes in products, procedures and more.
Fresh Break LLC, obtained the USDA Organic Certification by Quality Certification Services, on July 29th, 2016.