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Good Organic Retail Practices 2022 Guide

Deli, Prepared Foods, and Restaurant Best Practices and System Plan

Cleaning and Sanitizing 

Cleaning and sanitizing the deli and prepared foods department or restaurant kitchen is similar to other departments. Follow the guidelines in Section 2 (Cleaning and Sanitizing) to prevent contamination.

  • Store cleaning materials away from food products and preparation areas. Never store these materials above a sink or preparation area.
  • Always clean and thoroughly rinse all sinks, tubs, preparation areas and utensils before using these areas for organic food preparation.
  • Use only department approved cleaning materials.
  • Complete any written documentation of your cleaning activities when needed.
  • Clean up spills when they occur.


Receiving organic ingredients for prepared foods, deli and restaurants is similar to receiving organic products in any facility. Follow the guidelines in Section 2 (Receiving) for receiving best practices to prevent commingling and contamination when receiving bulk products.

  • Always verify product ordered matches what is delivered and what is written on the invoice/bill of lading.
  • Always look for clear organic labeling and certifying agent seal or name on incoming containers.
  • Place any item in a quarantine area that does not meet USDA labeling rules. Get missing information from supplier.
  • When a store purchases organic product through a distributor, it’s the distributor’s responsibility to maintain the documentation on the products they sell. Cases of new products or the product itself should be reviewed at receiving to verify use of the word “organic” and identification of the certifying agent name on the case or product label.
  • Document any transfer of product from in-store departments to Prepared Food Department.

Deli, Prepared Foods, and Restaurant Storage 

Products from broken or open bags/containers can be accidentally mixed with non-organic products or ingredients. Proper labeling is key to prevent non-organic products from being used to fill organic recipes. If a mix-up occurs, employees should understand that they have management’s full support to relabel the entire container and sell it as non-organic. 

  • Have separate storage areas for organic and non-organic products and ingredients.
  • Clearly label organic and non-organic cold and dry storage areas.
  • Always place organic bags or boxes in a separate clearly labeled area from conventional products.
  • Never place organic product below conventional product, where falling items may cause contamination.
  • Never store organic product in boxes or bags that have been used for conventional products.

Deli and Prepared Foods Processing and Packaging 

  • Trays, drying racks, cutting and work area surfaces, as well as knives, spoons, spatulas and other utensils, must be thoroughly cleaned and rinsed between organic and non-organic products and ingredients.
  • Wash hands prior to direct contact
  • with organic food products and between preparing conventional and organic recipes.
  • When prepping product in sitting water, organic product should not be processed in water that was used to process non-organic product.
  • Clearly label and identify all organic products at the production area.
  • Group organic ingredients clearly separated from non-organic ingredients.
  • When multi-ingredient items are produced in store it is recommended that ingredients purchased for such products be exclusively Organic. This is because it is too difficult to segregate in a production environment.

    Example: Two kinds of chicken, organic and not organic can be produced for rotisserie because it is a single ingredient. If olive oil is an ingredient listed as organic in any product, then all the olive oil in the kitchen should be organic.
  • Tape open bags of ingredients shut before returning them to organic storage area. Be sure the organic label is visible.
  • Clearly label and highlight all organic foods on the recipe cards.
  • All preparation procedures should be closely monitored by a manager.
  • Store finished organic products on separate trays from non-organic prepared food items.

Labeling Individual Deli, Prepared Foods, and Restaurant Recipes

All labeling of prepared foods needs to adhere to USDA’s Organic Labeling guidelines as outlined in Labels, Labeling and use of the USDA Organic Seal

  • When preparing a product sold as 100%organic, “Organic” or “made with organic ingredients” the recipe card or instructions for the employee preparing this item should clearly state which ingredients are organic. The use of a highlighter, or bold letters could differentiate the organic from the conventional on the recipe.
  • All organic ingredients need to be certified. Employees should look for word “Organic” or the USDA Organic seal as well as the name of the certifying agent on bulk incoming ingredient containers before use.
  • Highlight organic ingredients on recipe card. Determine which labeling category the recipe fits and mark this (100%, at least 95%, 70-95%, less than 70%) on the recipe card. Find more about determining the % of organic ingredients for proper labeling in Section 2 (Labeling).
  • Any labels used in prepared foods cannot use the word, “Certified,” show a certifying agent name or logo, or the USDA seal unless the retail store is certified by a USDA accredited certifying agent.

Labeling Deli and Prepared Foods Case

  • All organic ingredients or items in service or self-service cases should be clearly identified with signage or other labels.
  • Any organic ingredients or items used should be emphasized and highly visible to the customer.

Packaging Materials 

  • Only new or recycled from organic product materials can be used when packaging organic products. Bowls, trays, plastic wrap or bags that have previously held conventional product may be used only if they are thoroughly cleaned and rinsed.
  • All packaging materials must be food grade, assuring that dyes and fumigants do not pose a risk. You can ask your supplier to verify that no fumigants are used in your packaging.

Display Case Labeling of Deli and Prepared Foods Departments 

  • The display case label may state the product as "organic." 
  • Prevent Commingling and Contamination: Organic prepared foods must not touch non-organic prepared foods when unwrapped. Organic unwrapped prepared foods should not be displayed below non-organic prepared foods. Segregating organic from non-organic greatly reduces the risk of commingling or contamination.

Restaurant Menu, Sign Boards and Verbal Identification of Organic Items

  • In a restaurant, the menu or sign board is the customer signage and therefore must adhere to the USDA labeling guidelines.
  • A menu selection may only be called organic if over 95% of the dish is organic and any non-organic ingredients must be allowed as permitted ingredients.
  • Menus can also use the same criteria as product labels in stores with an Asterix next to organic ingredients on the menu and then also noting this at the bottom or top of the menu.
  • Online sales from restaurants follow the same guidelines as online retail, which is listed below.
  • Oral descriptions of products in a restaurant atmosphere are important and therefore wait staff need to adhere to descriptions of dishes that adhere to USDA guidelines. This means, for instance, dishes cannot be called organic unless over 95% of the dish is in fact organic. If over 70% of a dish is Organic then a “made with . . .”  claim can be made.
  • Use of the word organic must leave the customer a clear understanding of which ingredients are organic and which are not.
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