Connie Paris loves eating at The Organic Coup, the nation's first organic fast food restaurant.
"It's refreshing to get real food so easily," Connie says.
With the explosion in popularity of organic food, it's no surprise restaurants want a bite of the pie. However, unlike food products that require certification to legally use the organic label, that same standard isn't required of restaurants.
Alexis Baden-Mayer of the Organic Consumers Association says, "There are a lot of restaurants that have organic in their name and advertise themselves as organic that are not certified."
Erica Welton, a co-founder of The Organic Coup, explains, "The way the standards are currently written, there is a very large loophole for restaurants where they can say the word organic, but no one's checking to make sure it actually is organic, or is organic every day of the year."
The USDA explains, "When the original legislation was proposed, restaurants were exempted because the focus was on establishing parameters for producers and handlers."
For some restaurants promoting they are organic, the term may only apply to certain menu items or ingredients. Yet others, like The Organic Coup, get special certification from outside associations. They say it's important to be clear to customers. Dennis Hoover, co-founder of The Organic Coup, explains, "They have trust that everything in our restaurant is 100 percent certified organic, not just one item or 20 percent of the items but everything."
Want to know for sure? Ask.
The Organic Coup founders believe people will start insisting on better when they know better.
"I think that as people become more educated about organic, they will start asking more questions," says Welton.
Connie is already there, and prefers when the restaurants make it easy to know the food is as good for her as she thinks it is, saying, "I don't question as much as I should. But when you see that stamp you know for sure."
Consumers can file a complaint on the USDA website if they are concerned that a restaurant or any other company is misrepresenting itself as organic.
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