What does "bio" mean?


In Europe, organic products are clearly identified by the "bio" or "organic" label. The EU organic logo seen above is to be used on packaged organic products with the EU origin and indication of the inspection body. These instructions can be found on the label, packaging or loose goods - such as fruits and vegetables - on the box or on the shelf. Since 1991, an EU law has stipulated in detail which products may be designated as organic, how their labels may appear and what information must be on the label. The authorities are always fighting against abusive use of organic labeling and impose fines or even imprisonment for illegal use.

The EU Organic Regulations regulate the labeling of organic products:

They allow the use of the terms "bio" or "organic" in the same sense only for foods that have been produced and processed in accordance with the regulations and whose manufacturers have been controlled accordingly. However, the protection of the regulation goes much further: it includes all the terms that give the impression that the product is a bio-product. Frequently, but not always, the sales description of a organic food already contains the component "bio" or "organic". For example, organic foods are presented to consumers as "organic apple juice", "organic potatoes" or "organic oatmeal". Also with the words "from bio farming" or "from organic farming" can be stated if it is an organic product. In any case, it must be stated in the ingredient list of the product which ingredient has been biologically produced by asterisks on the respective ingredient. 

A food may be termed "bio" or "organic" if at least 95% of its agricultural ingredients are organic. Products with less than 95% but more than 50% of agricultural ingredients from organic production may indicate organic quality in the list of ingredients, but do not carry the organic label and do not use the EU organic label.

A mandatory element on the label of each organic product is the indication of the organic inspection body that has checked the producer or processor for compliance with the legal requirements for organic farming and processing. For loose goods, this information is in the accompanying documents; the customer can ask the employees of the trading company for it at the store.

The codes of eco-control bodies in all EU countries are structured according to a uniform pattern. For example, for German-based inspection bodies the indication is "DE-ÖKO-002", where "DE" stands for Germany, "ÖKO" stands for an abbreviation of the origin of the product from organic farming and "002" or another three-digit number the control body. This number will be assigned by the supervising authorities to the respective control body.

For the particularly critical or curious consumers there is the possibility of full transparency: in a list of the Federal Agency for Agriculture and Food, you can see where the said organic inspection body is located and inquire at this control point, if the manufacturer or in-circulation bringer of the organic product was controlled and works in accordance with the law. The indication of the eco-control point on the product makes it easier for all market participants to trace the product origin.

EU organic regulations state that all organic food produced or processed in EU Member States must bear the European Union's organic logo, a horizontal rectangle in light green color with a silhouette of a leaf made of the stars of the EU in white. Organic products from non-EU countries may but do not have to carry the EU organic logo. 

If the EU organic logo is used, it is mandatory to provide a geographical indication of origin of the ingredients. 

  • "EU agriculture", provided that at least 98% of the agricultural ingredients come from the EU.

  • "non-EU agriculture" for such Products whose geographical origin is at least 98% in non-EU countries and "EU / non-EU agriculture" for all other products.

The reference to a particular country of origin is also permitted if at least 98% of the agricultural ingredients come from that country.


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