Americans aren’t only eating organic—we are increasingly living organic. We don’t want to merely eat the healthiest foods possible, we also want to eliminate harmful chemicals and toxic ingredients from the soap our children wash with, from the treats we feed our pets, from the products we use to clean our house, from the clothes we wear, and from the mattresses our families sleep on.

The organic market in the United States is breaking new records as consumers. Parents, millennials, new shoppers and savvy cooks are all seeking out the USDA organic seal. Sales of organic products now total over $35 billion annually, and are growing by double digits every year. Over 80 percent of households now buy organic, and not just at their favorite farmers’ market or the specialty grocery store, but at Walmart, Costco and the local supermarket.

Greener sales

Sales of non-food organic products—personal care and household products, fiber, supplements, and pet food—are a smaller part of today’s total organic market, but are climbing fast. Non-food organic sales, almost $2.8 billion in 2013, jumped nearly eight-fold since 2002. What a difference from just 20 years ago when the organic industry was barely a niche in the big food sector.

"Over 80 percent of households now buy organic, and not just at their favorite farmers’ market or the specialty grocery store, but at Walmart, Costco and the local supermarket."

Today’s organic buyers know the USDA organic label represents one of the most tightly regulated systems in agriculture—a system that tracks the organic product from its beginnings in the field or the pasture to our pantry shelves and kitchens. Organic consumers can trust that organic certification stands for a system of production with no synthetic pesticides, no GMOs, no synthetic hormones—a system contributing to the health of the individual and of our planet.

Beyond the label

Unfortunately, the rules for making organic claims in the non-food sector are not as clear-cut as in the food aisles. Many of those products claiming to be organic fall outside the scope of authority of USDA’s National Organic Program.

In one aisle of the grocery store, food items must be certified organic if an organic claim is on the front display panel. Fraudulent use of the term is against the law. But in the next aisle, while there are many high-quality organic labeled personal care products, cleaning supplies and textiles that are indeed certified, there are others that are not. But because these products are outside USDA’s jurisdiction, they may claim to be organic even if they aren’t.

The Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) has helped fill the regulatory gap for organic textiles. GOTS is the international textile processing standard for organic fibers established in the early 2000s to give consumers assurance of the validity of the organic claim. It’s also backed up by an independent certification process.

So what can consumers do to ensure they are truly buying organic? Seek out that USDA Organic label. If no USDA label, look for other third-party certification like GOTS. Contact the product makers, and ask if their claims are verified. You have a right to know.